Chrissy Growl EP

The Chicago polymath makes his Freerange debut with this wide-ranging swathe of clubland gems.
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chrissy growl freerange

The dance-music polymath Chrissy, who's also recorded under the Chrissy Murderbot and Chris E. Pants monikers, has worked his magic within so many genres—from juke to booty bass to rave to disco—that it's sometimes hard to keep track. But in the minds of many, the man born Christopher Shively (who, among his multitude of activities, runs the Night Owl Diner imprint with Alex Burkat) is at his best when spreading the four-to-the-floor pleasures of good old house music. No less a house authority than Jimpster apparently agrees; his Freerange label has snapped up Chrissy's latest, the Growl EP. And—no surprise here—the releases is an immensely appealing winner, one that merges the Chicago-based artist's songcraft, production skills and sense of what works, both on the club and one the headphones.

The release kicks off in laid-back mode with the title track, with former Hercules & Love Affair warbler Shaun J. Wright lending his talents to the song. The tune's bare-bones drum pattern anchors a 303-esque bassline, with dub effects and syncopated percussion weaving in and out of the mix. At around the midway point, shimmering keyboards make an appearance; between that, Wright's breathy close-miked vocals, the delay and reverb, and the track's late-night feel, it's a sublime effort. (It's a bit reminiscent of theLullabulabye Trance mix of Mark Imperial's 1989 classic "The Love I Lost"—and that's high praise.) For the vocal-averse, Chrissy's thoughtfully included a dub version, stripping the vocals down to a heavily-delayed "tonight" and accentuation those heavenly synths and that Windy City–inspired bassline.

"Presidential Astrologer"—perhaps an ode to the Reagan's in-house horoscope guru, Joan Quigley?—both drops the tempo and picks up the energy. The song features another brilliant bassline (this one boasting a highly effective hollowed-out sound) adding tension to its skeletal kick-snare drum pattern, enlivened by what sounds like hyperactive synthesized woodblocks. Choral stabs right out of the Trevor Horn school of production, along with an Italo/new-wave melody, imbue the cut with a slightly goofy ’80s edge—but, still, with its super-clean production and intriguing arrangement, it's a serious track. Also serious: Smart Bar resident Savile's subued, slow-burn remix of the "Presidential Astrologer," which features a nearly-three-minute of an intro to get moving, luscious chords adding drama and texture throughout the build. The EP's finale, "Loudness Wars," hits hard—it's by far the toughest number of the bunch, its hammering drums coming almost as a shock following the relative tenderness of what's come before. It's a sign of Chrissy's versatility that, in the context of this release, the track works as well as it does—and the EP itself shows that the upward trajectory of his career continues.