House music has come a long way, baby. I’m not quite sure I ever knew what the genre was meant to define. When I was 13, anything that wasn’t mainstream pop or hip-hop and had some sort of vaguely electronic element to it was ‘techno’. By 18 when the clubs were legal and the soundsystems louder, the hot stuff piping out of them was known to me as ‘dance’. A couple of years later and the Guetta/Benassi/Deadmau5 brigade had come to reclaim that same territory, as dance music converged on pop music, and renamed it ‘house’. The nomenclature decision motivating Swedish House Mafia’s formation and burgeoning popularity seemed to cement the connection between ‘house’ and the sort of thing you might hear in a nightclub but just as soon, the Mafia disbanded and the notion of Electronic Dance Music (or EDM) became the labeling preference de jour. But while the ‘House’ moniker might have fallen from popular grace, especially after the break-up of Angello and co, it lives on, perhaps in a more pure, deeper form, in tracks like this one from New Jersey local Chris Malinchak.
With its actual origins in the Chicago club and radio scene of the mid-1980s, deep house, the kind purveyed by Malinchak on ‘So Good To Me’, eschews more popular nods to dirty bass (electro-house) and more alienating nods to squelchy sounds (acid-house) to come to the table with something eminently more soulful, adopting the lush sounds of early disco. Without wanting this to descend into a name-calling diatribe, Malinchak’s piece might not fit with mainstream (fundamentally amorphous) conceptions of what ‘house’ music is, but it is likely closer to some of the foundational work in the house space. All that said, genre titles tend to obscure the true excellence of a song. So while hundreds of words could be written about where Malinchak, signed to indie dance label French Press, fits into this broader historical narrative of house music, I prefer to locate him firmly within the bounds of a more ephemeral realm his label aspires to cultivate: ‘the sound of feel good’.
From the moment that more demure four-on-the-floor beat arrives, joined by some ethereal harmonies, you know you’re in for a treat. In many ways, the five sprawling minutes of ‘So Good To Me’ hosts many of the structural features that might be common to an Afrojack track, only softened, elongated, blurred. Malinchak’s piece is refreshingly languorous in a musical context in which much is tightened and tweaked to within an inch of its life. That’s not to say that Malinchak hasn’t intelligently crafted this track; only to suggest that given the elements he’s working with to start – low-key synth lines, soulful, reverberated vocals and those invaluable, looped harmonies – the end product could only ever be something infinitely more blissed-out than much else on offer. So while it’s not necessarily something you’d hear Avicii blasting out at 300 decibels, ‘So Good To Me’ lends itself to myriad more practical applications. It is, to borrow from French Express again, ‘filter funkin, daft punkin, lifelike’in & justifyin sound’ and almost impossibly easy to listen to. You could stick it on repeat and almost forget you’d spent the last 30 minutes living through the same track. Almost, but not quite. Malinchak packs enough subtle dynamic, enough intricate nuances, and enough historical awareness into ‘So Good To Me’ that this is not a track you’ll forget easily.
Chris Malinchak – Good To Me