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Album of the Week: Mr. Fingers – Cerebral Hemispheres

Larry Heard is House music. He was there at the event horizon of the genre as a DJ, producer and record label. His seminal track “Can you Feel it?” as Mr. Fingers, sampling the Martin Luther’s “I have a dream” speech remains a bastion for House music, some thirty years on from its release. Washing Machine, Closer and Amnesia all contributed to cementing his legacy early  and he’s never stopped recording, performing and DJing since.

Gerd Janson once said of Heard that he “put the soul back into the machines” and many prominent critics and figures on the scene have attributed the origins of the Deep House genre to Heard.

Born in Chicago, raised on a healthy mixture of Soul, Jazz and Motown, Larry Heard’s musical career began behind a drum kit, before embarking on a solo career in 1983. He had found an affinity with the machines at the cusp of a new age in music and he formed an integral part of the foundation of House as Mr. Fingers through releases on Trax, Jack Trax and his own Alleviated records. He’s been an unwavering presence in music ever since and as Mr. Fingers he’s recently made his long-awaited return to the album format some twenty-odd years on from “Back to Love” with “Cerebral Hemispheres”.

“Cerebral Hemispheres” comes at a time when House music albums are little more than a selection of tracks recorded on the same equipment at the same period time, with 18 songs that move through the evolution of a night on the dance floor. From the luscious, soulful treatment of opener “Full Moon” to the transcendent synth work of the beat-track “Electron”, the LP moves through very many moods throughout its existence.

At the fore is Heard’s treatment of melody and harmony that touches on that deepness he is known for. On “Cerebral Hemispheres” expressive acoustic instruments, mostly played by Heard himself, find a unique sympathy with the programmed percussion and arrangement to form densely textured compositions that very rarely outstay their welcome. More than just a loop, each track grows and evolves channeling the improvisational methods of Jazz through the melodic-and harmonic parts while the rhythm section and percussion remain steadfast in their resolve.

The title of the album makes some allusion to the opposing characteristics of Larry Heard’s musical upbringing as his dance floor leanings coalesce with his Jazz, Soul and Motown influences. Where they sometimes form two distinctly divergent paths on the album like between “Urbane Sunset” and  “Sao Paulo”, they are at their best when they crossover at a moment like “Sand of Aruba”.

Cerebral Hemispheres is a very colourful and textured encounter with Heard’s immense musical background, from his early musical education to the origins of House music and beyond. The album follows a couple of EPs from Heard as Mr. Fingers after a ten year hiatus and suggest a new era of creativity for the producer, at least if not the DJ and label boss; staking his claim yet again as one of the most important figures in House music.