"What Iz Deep House?" asks the titled track midway through DJ Aakmael's Take It Back, his latest EP for Scissor & Thread. It's a rhetorical question of course, one that the American producer answers plainly enough on this good-natured EP. The emphasis is on 'plain,' however; those looking for exciting new developments in the style should look elsewhere.
A longtime contributor to the genre, DJ Aakmael (real name Greg Stewart) has over 20 years of releases under his belt on respected house labels, and has laudably chronicled the scene on his radio show (originally WDCE 90.1 FM, now online), for a similar span. In short, he's the kind of stalwart figure any scene would be glad to have working on its behalf. His music reflects this devotion, but at the expense of a willingness to disturb some of the genre's sacred cows.
This is very traditionalist deep house: long, deep and repetitive, with a heavy emphasis on groove over melodic or thematic development. It's pragmatic and strictly formalist. That's fine; traditional house is essentially mood music in 2017, and Take It Back is best appreciated when approached from this perspective. It's an expertly paced and historically-rooted soundtrack to relaxed grooving and after-hours socializing.
Indeed, Stewart navigates the well-worn contours of the genre like a pro, and there's really little to dislike here; there's just nothing to get really excited about, either. "Sand" is perhaps the highlight, a bouncing, laid-back offering featuring some improv jazz piano that ups the style quotient but hardly breaks any new ground (the included remix adds some watery, atmospheric synth squiggles, and is worth a listen). The aforementioned "What Iz Deep House" has its moments also, with a solid breakdown towards its end, all deep kicks punching through warm, swelling pads, and an infectiously groovy bass — satisfying deep house hallmarks that remind us why the genre remains current.
Take It Back no doubt does its part to maintain that currency, but it doesn't mint any new ideas in the dance economy either. (Scissor & Thread)