Italian producer Alessandro Pasini (a.k.a. Deep88) carries a deep affection for the smooth chords, spacey tones, and drum-machine hits of classic house. Consisting of a collection of songs previously released on 12"s for his own Deep88 label, along with a number of brand-new tracks, Pasini's sophomore LP finds the producer gleefully indulging in this affection, offering up a delightful array of soulful, hardware-born house and glimpses of sunny disco throughout Removing Dust.
It's no secret that the sounds associated with house music's original golden age have become increasingly referenced over the past few years; most notably, they've been repurposed to fit within more contemporary productions, which helps explain why they continually spill into the bass-music sphere. In some ways, Pasini's Deep88 project appears of this ilk—the funkier veins of Midwest house and NYC disco are constant reference points—but the Italian producer makes less of an effort to fit these familiar elements into ultra-modern, club-minded packages. Instead, many of the tracks on Removing Dust are more closely related to their sources of inspiration. Raw drum machines, thick, analog-sounding synths, and filter-tweaked leads sit alongside the occasional vocal performance and even a few playful spoken-word vocal samples. As a result, Deep88's productions are rendered lighthearted, lacking the seriousness and intensity of much of today's club music, an aspect which actually works to Pasini's advantage for much of the LP. Songs like "Italo82 (Disco Remix)" and "Sing It Back" (yes, a cover of the Moloko classic) glow with bright synths and swing with understated percussion, but—above all—are just disarmingly fun and charming. Even when the record dips into deeper territory, as it does on shuffler "The Vibe," or on the dustier "100% Kamelhaar" and "Thor Ens Funk," the mood remains celebratory—Deep88 isn't attempting to hit the listener over the head with a "big tune"; instead, he's inviting us to share in a (hopefully) mutual love for the essential qualities that make house music fun.
Still, when celebrating house's classic form effectively—not to mention for an 80-minute span—a good deal of stylistic balance is required. Unfortunately, Deep88 periodically loses sight of this on Removing Dust. For instance, there's troubling reggae/disco hybrid "Stories (The Sghembo Mix)" and the closing "Summer (Irregular Disco Workers Remix)," both of which go well beyond the line of being nostalgically informed and come across as retro overindulgence, something that certainly isn't helped by a questionable vocal performance on the latter cut. Even a number of the less offensive selections skirt the line too closely, inviting the claim that they're merely cheesy house rehashes.
When Pasini does find the right balance though, the results are as inviting as they are unique in the modern production landscape. Stripped-back roller "Grancartridge" supports this claim best, as its maker fits vocal chops of a scientific instructor demonstrating how panning works (likely from some old record which helped users calibrate their turntable and speaker systems in decades past) between warbly electric piano and fuzzy synths. On paper, a song like this shouldn't be as much fun as Deep88 is able to make it, yet it's hard to recall another producer in recent memory who's been better suited to seek out these underexplored corners of the current house renaissance.