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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Andrew Emil: Sound Experiment

Plus: Brett Johnson brings back the new-school

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  The soulful roots of Chicago house dug deep into the artistic mind-set of Andrew Emil, who channeled their influences into sound, art and audio experimentation. The accomplished result melds the smooth vibe of neo-jazz with the funkier influences of underground house.

  Emil’s recent venture, Four Play Music, is an attempt to expand his musical reach through a self-helmed record label. Four Play marks a home base for his own work— alongside several artists from Chicago and his native Kansas City, who he features on the imprint’s latest compilation, Andrew Emil Presents Four Play Music.

  Emil’s live style on the decks translates well into the mixed sampler, which includes variations of sultrier, soulful house and funkier, tech-influenced tracks. Kansas City’s Pat Nice teams up with J-Rod on the infectious thump of “Rockument,” along with the soulful, dub number “CTF (Nick Santillian Dub).” Emil’s own highlights include the chaotic funkiness of “Professional,” which showcases the artist’s diverse range of craft, from early to peak-hour. On the more accessible tip, Lake Street Project’s feature cut, “Forever,” has the teeth to break out as a dance-driven club anthem. But it’s Emil’s original tracks that emerge as the most forward-thinking cuts on the album.

  The artist’s own forward-thinking mind-set led him to a career as a sound engineer. A concert-trained percussionist since age 11, Emil earned a chair in his native Kansas City Symphony and moved to Chicago in the late-’90s to attend ColumbiaCollege. His passion for all forms of art—both audio and visual—led Emil and his brother Erik Christian to host gallery events that integrated sound, graphics and graffiti. Today, Emil’s sound reflects the eclectic elements of jazz and soul.

  Take notes on this deep, funky experiment in sound.

  Andrew Emil joins residents Kris Kleinbeck and Lukewarm for WiscoJazz Fridays on Friday, May 9, at Highbury (2322 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.). Music 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. No cover.

Bring it back: When DJ/producer Brett Johnson shot onto the underground house scene with the likes of producers J.T. Donaldson and Lance De Sardi in 2003, he unknowingly helped to launch the first of what would become the new-school house movement. Based in Dallas at the time, Johnson paved the way for a large new-school scene, where tracks manipulated quirky arrangements of funky samples and sounds.

  Since then, Johnson has moved on to launch his own label, Aesoteric, out of Seattle, which showcases much of the same chunkier brand of house. With releases on Derrick Carter’s Classic Recordings and DJ Sneak’s Magnetic label, Johnson continues to prove his relevance on the new-school house scene by blending deep grooves with tech and funky.

  His technical skills on the decks prove equally relevant. On Friday, May 16, he joins Chicago’s Frank Solano (Kolour) for The Step Up at Three (722 N. Milwaukee St.). Music 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Cover charge: Free before 11 p.m., $5 after.