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Andrés - Andrés IV Music Album Reviews

Eight years after his last album and seven since the crowd-pleasing “New for U,” the Detroit house and hip-hop staple shows off his encyclopedic knowledge of soul, disco, and Latin music.

Kenny Dixon Jr. and the late James Yancey represent opposite ends of Detroit’s musical spectrum: The former, better known as Moodymann, makes murky house music; the latter is revered for the hip-hop productions he turned out under the aliases Jay Dee and J Dilla. But both native sons are branches of the same musical tree. Humberto Hernandez knows that nexus well. Working at Detroit’s legendary Buy Rite record store, he would play Jay Dee’s early beat tapes in the shop and dare co-worker Dixon to bust moves to them. Using the handle DJ Dez, Hernandez was the DJ for Yancey’s group Slum Village, but he also dropped soul-flecked house tracks as Andrés on Dixon’s labels KDJ and Mahogani Music.


Like his more revered peers, Hernandez is encyclopedic in his knowledge of the African American pop vernacular, be it obscure deep soul, smooth jazz, or roller-rink standards. Catch one of his sets and you can hear Andrés confidently traversing these genres and more at a dizzying clip. His previous albums were just as dynamic, spinning like a restless radio dial and never staying on one sound for long. Coming eight years after his last album, Andrés IV captures all of the above while catching him at a professional peak, coming off a run of singles that was among the decade’s most pleasurable.

Across the first four tracks, Andrés toggles between percolating Brazilian and Cuban grooves, ethereal vocal R&B, and soul jazz. On “Mighty Tribe,” he lifts snatches from Doug Carn’s jubilant “Mighty Mighty” and a Motown dancefloor classic, twines them together, and then sends them soaring. Hear him chop what might otherwise be a coherent phrase into seductive gibberish on “Truth Serum” and the lineage connecting him to both Dilla and Moodymann becomes clear: Andrés cuts through an otherwise familiar groove to find something tantalizing and novel in its depths. And on “Waist Deep,” the way he flips the overly familiar Parliament classic “(Not Just) Knee Deep” is akin to hiking a well-trodden path in a handstand.

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In 2012, Andrés inaugurated his own La Vida label with “New for U,” an anthem built from little more than a gorgeous garland of Philly disco strings, one-note Rhodes throb, and a tough house kick drum. Simple and elemental, it would go on to become one of the decade’s most delectable dancefloor cuts, selling out multiple pressings and introducing Andrés to an audience well outside of Detroit. It’s included here, but to say that nothing else on the album approaches its heights would be unfair, since little from the last decade of dance music does. A live version of the song adds a few more wrinkles and Andrés’ own drumming, but it feels unnecessary.

He comes closest to matching the resplendent “New for U” with “Free,” a celebratory house number that rides an echoing gospel organ, tapped hi-hat, and buttery group harmonies. You can imagine it being a crowd-pleaser no matter the occasion: skate-rink birthday party, club night, or wedding reception. Later tracks veer into 132 BPM club fare (“Learn 2 Love”) and screwed-down hip-hop instrumentals (“Run Dat Shit”), highlighting his versatility more than his mood-building. But for most of IV, Hernandez makes clear that he’s a vital part of Detroit’s musical lineage.


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