Album Review | Art Department | The Drawing Board

Art Department
Crosstown Rebels

house \haus \ n + tech•no \tek-nõ\ n

Originally published in Time Out Chicago magazine | 03.30.11

Deep house is back. Sure, it never completely went away, but in North America especially, it was forced deep into trendy lounges and sushi restaurants around 2006, as it fell out of favor with club patrons clamoring for dance styles like electro. That tide is starting to turn. Descending from the great white north, Kenny Glasgow and Jonny White are helping usher in a new phase in the dance subgenre.

As Art Department, the twosome—who have had successful solo careers stretching back to the ’80s—have given the deeper side of house new legs, infusing it with darker, techier influences (nothing groundbreaking by itself) but also emotive and sardonic, new wave–esque songwriting.

On “Living the Life,” guest vocalist and Detroit techno maverick Seth Troxler asks, “Do you come home from work satisfied, having done something meaningful with your day? / If so, good for you,” alongside a potent cowbell stomp.

The other songs on Art Department’s debut follow suit. “Tell Me Why” bubbles with an understated patter, ratcheting up the intensity over its ten-minute length while Glasgow pines for love that slipped through his fingers. “Without You,” which respected online dance resource Resident Advisor voted its top track of 2010, bellows out “I can’t make it without you,” over a drum beat that could have come straight from a New Order session.

Their music has been dubbed gothic house, which fits the duo’s morose output. But its best songs only flirt with the dark side. “Vampire Nightclub” is like an anthem for ravers who have abandoned Ecstasy’s shiny, happy high for the danger of Special K. Set closer “I C U,” which is Art Department’s true shining moment, shows us the light at the end of the K hole. Its synth warmth and tribal drumming brighten the mood as Glasgow lets us know, “I see you wanting me now.”

—Joshua P. Ferguson

Here are snippets of two of the top cuts, plus a dj mix, albeit, a dated one.



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