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Plant Music: Love Me

New York's seminal Plant label releases a set of superfun house.

By Bruce Tantum
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Plant Music has one of the most profoundly party-worthy pedigrees of any local imprint. The label was founded in the early days of this millennium as a home for the city’s then-burgeoning indie-dance scene by Dominique Keegan, coproprietor with Marcus “Shit Robot” Lambkin of the raucous, much-missed DJ hangout Plant Bar. The label’s coleader, Stretch Armstrong, boasts a resume that begins in 1990 with WKCR’s seminal The Stretch Armstrong & Bobbito Show, regarded as a milestone in the rise of hip-hop’s popularity. (People still think of Armstrong as a hip-hop DJ, but his time at Plant has shown that he has a way with a four-to-the-floor rhythm as well.) So it should come as little surprise that the latest compilation from Plant Music, the premiere installment of a new series focusing on what the label is calling its “sexier” cuts, is about as fun and dance-floor-ready a collection of house tracks as you’re likely to run across.

It should be noted that this set is not for those interested in the cerebral, chin-stroking end of the house-music spectrum; Love Me is unabashedly focused on the act of going out and having fun. That said the CD begins on what could be considered a somber note: The leadoff track, Plant mainstay Eli Escobar’s “Love Thing,” is remixed by DJ Mehdi, the beloved French producer who passed away last year in a freak accident. But it’s a pumping tune, with glistening chords (reminiscent of Detroit technopop à la Inner City) and earwormy vocal sample layered over a hard-charging beat. It sets a template for what follow: a blitzkrieg of big melodies and chord patterns that are near-Pavlovian in their effectiveness, with spare yet memorable vocals and plenty of references to classic dance-music tropes of the ’80s and ’90s. “Four Four Letter” from the Glass (the long-running combo led by Keegan and Glen “Wool” Brady) gets a once-over from Black Van’s Kris Menace and Oliver Kowalski, who imbue the hook-laden cut with a deliriously gorgeous sheen. Heavyfeet’s “I Will” is a stripped-down slice of rather authentic-sounding ’90s garage, with the added bonus of a wiggly, ’80s-referencing synth line. The collection boasts a track approaching classic bitch-track territory, with the late Aaron Carl “talkin’ about the hoochies” over a bare-bones thump on Danny Daze’s great “Ghetto Fab.” What might be the album’s best cut, however, is perhaps its most meditative: Wool’s “The Good in You” is a midtempo stunner, with a graceful piano, cooing vocals and plaintive trumpet lending depth to what’s otherwise a simple, loving ode to the joys of clubland.

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