"At the end of the day, there's no instruction manual. We don't have any answers." So states Christina Wheeler during her mind-bending spoken-word performance halfway through Codes and Metaphors 2, the latest offering from Black Jazz Consortium (a.k.a. Fred Peterkin a.k.a. Fred P.). The song she's speaking over is called "Be and Not Know," a title whose indeterminacy seems to speak to the same philosophical stance Peterkin hinted at during an interview with Little White Earbuds three years ago when he said, "I don't particularly have a theory for making music. Maybe that is my theory." There's probably something to that, as this four-track outing feels like the work of someone who has naturally, but not intentionally, managed to find new dimensions in a musical form that's almost 30 years old.
This shouldn't come as much of a shock to anybody. As a producer of genuinely original house music, Peterkin is matched by few others in the contemporary era. Like his peers on Underground Quality, his kind of innovation is subtle—it's his application of small tweaks here and there combined with a willingness to look for inspiration outside of house that gives the producer his edge. Lately he's been working on Codes and Metaphors, an album released in pieces as three 12" EPs. We've already seen the first of this series, and the second one picks up where it left off. What's different is that this newest edition adds a slight touch of techno psychedelia to what was already really good dance music.
Shifting swirls of piano chords and deeply reverberating bass introduce "Your Love feat. Lady Blacktronika." It's a natural progression from the ethereal vocals that end Codes and Metaphors 1, with an intimately romantic sensibility that retains some semblance of club readiness by finding a balance between dry percussion and effect-drenched vocals. Alternatively, Jus-Ed's remix on the flipside dials down the atmospherics and punches up the low-end with diving, 8-bit buzz saws and an old-school snare that swings like Todd Terry in 1989.
Though the EP begins and ends soulfully, it's what's in between that really differentiates this second portion of the album. It's techier than anything on part one, with two cuts that fuse aspects of techno and house without getting anywhere near the sort of slickness that usually defines that combination. For example, the first 40 seconds of "Heartrocks" are brought in with a four-on-the-floor that's filled out by tough sounds that boom and crunch mechanically. Isolated, it would be a great DJ tool, but when let free, it develops through reversed pads into a sustained piece of trippiness. This totally "out there" vibe is carried even further on the aforementioned "Be and Not Know feat. Christina Wheeler," with bizarre and glitchy shards of jazz swirling over short drum loops. Wheeler jumps in around the one-minute mark with an off-the-cuff spoken word that's somewhere between grating and brilliant in the way that it evokes the thought patterns and uncertain conclusions induced by LSD. For the right dancefloor, this could easily be the kind of song that changes lives. For the wrong dancefloor, it's an almost guaranteed purge. However, neither of these contexts changes the objective fact that the track—and the EP as a whole—is a very original work.