Mates’ Crates: Larry Heard – Missing You
Written by Toby Taylor on 11th April 2020
Mates’ Crates, a series headed up by our friend Andrei Sandu, dives into the tales behind records and digs deeper into our connections to music. These are not reviews, they’re stories. This time, a guest post from Melodic Distraction’s own Snoodman Deejay, cratedigger extraordinaire and boogie virtuoso behind It’s Good For The Soul.
Label: Alleviated Records | Year: 1999 (LP) / 2000 (12″)| Discogs: Larry Heard – Missing You
Perhaps particularly appropriate as we all socially distance from our nearest and dearest, the standout track from the oft overlooked 1999 album Genesis is a soulful, emotive, and (of course) deep house record that is quintessential Larry Heard.
Widely acclaimed as the man who proved crucial to the development of house music and for “putting the deep into deep house,” what is there left to say about Larry Heard that hasn’t already been said? As Resident Advisor’s excellent mini doc explains “from the beginning he was pushing the musical boundaries of house music forward” incorporating musical techniques, such as minor 7th chords (like those on “Can You Feel It”), that at the time broke new ground for a genre that had previously been dominated by the more basic “jacking” style of production.
“Missing You” is no exception to this. Despite appearing on an album that saw Heard slightly depart from his usual tone and experiment with a more electro sound, it is the track that most closely resembles the style that first attracted fans to Heard’s productions in the mid 80s. No surprises then that it’s also my favourite track on the album. I’ve always been attracted to soulful, emotive dance music – music that not only makes me want to boogie but that that I also, for whatever reason, am able to connect with on a higher, more emotional level – music that actually makes me feel something. That’s why I’ve never really been a fan of most euro-disco records, because with their greater emphasis on a relentless beat, the soul and emotive feeling found in tracks such as Candi Staton’s – “When You Wake Up Tomorrow” (one of my all-time favourite disco records) often gets lost, or is sufficiently diluted to the extent that they sound almost mechanical and repetitive.
Anyways, whilst I am slightly digressing, there is some relevance to all this. For me Larry Heard is the unrivalled master of imparting emotion, soul and spirituality into house music. What is so remarkable is that he’s been able to do it so consistently for over 30 years – whilst 2018’s Cerebral Hemispheres was not his most outstanding work, tracks such as “Crying Over You” and “City Streets” for example, are still deeply atmospheric.
Neither of those however, come close to the moody, haunting and bittersweet feeling of “Missing You”. The track begins ominously with thudding kicks and a dark plodding bass line, whilst the sound of rolling waves and echoing bird calls add to the eerie atmosphere. A high pitched, bubbling synth emerges, but it is not until Heard’s wispy vocals begin that the tone slightly brightens. Heard’s vocals are understated and calm, and whilst the lyrics appear deceptively simple their meaning is anything but, displaying the full anguish of unrequited love. Heard’s trademark crisp percussion keeps the track ticking along, as more dreamy synths are introduced, and just as it seems as if the tone is set to decisively shift into one that is decidedly more positive, it does the reverse.
The listener is jolted as the record returns to the ominous sounds of the track’s opening, as Heard strips away all but the deep, menacing bass line, the sound of waves crashing, and the eerie cries of seagulls before once again introducing a piercing, high pitched synth (a metaphor for Heard’s own piercing cries maybe?). Indeed the outro sounds much like the introduction, perhaps to emphasise the ongoing emotional strife that Heard himself continues to endure over his mystery lover (or maybe just because it sounds really good!). Either way it’s a really thought provoking way to close the track, one that leaves it without a clear sense of resolution (that’s added to by the gradual fade out).
It’s really hard to pick a favourite Larry Heard record, because quite simply there are so many amazing tracks to pick from. This one is definitely up there (as is Heard’s “Jazz Cafe” remix of it – an awesome, sparse deep house track driven by melancholic piano chords) as it brilliantly showcases the genius of the man, especially his ability to create soulful, deep, and down right moving house music.
Long live Larry Heard.
You can catch choice cuts from Snoodman Deejay on It’s Good For The Soul, every first Sunday of the month on Melodic Distraction Radio.