Dave Pezzner may seem like a newcomer to the world of deep house, but he has been churning out tracks as half of the duo West Coast house Jacob London for years. That few know Jacob London is a moniker and not a person is a testament to Pezzner's low-key profile as a producer and that's what has allowed him to sneak up on folks with crucial singles on big labels like OM and Freerange over the past couple of years.
His debut album, The Tracks Are Alive, for London-based house imprint Freerange sounds just like a grey, rainy day in his hometown of Seattle - of which there are many in the notoriously rainy city. In Pezzner's world, Seattle is delicate and restrained; deep and evocative. He still flies the flag of the Pacific Northwest long after the grunge bands closed up shop and the city's numerous techno producers fled dull day jobs at Microsoft in pursuit of Berlin's, and other points East, hedonistic indulges. But it is this blatant sense localism that also makes this album so great.
The Tracks Are Alive is pragmatic; Pezzner does everything he can to make the album come to life. Larissa Kapp's vocals on "Find Me" are sweet and soothing, blending well with earthy brass sounds. There's tougher tracks, like the title cut, ones honed for the dance floor, but with percussion sounds all tweaked to sound like rain pattering against every surface. It's all that perpetual drizzle and being cooped up that makes Seattle so melancholy and slightly passive-aggressive and tracks like "Hunt & Gather" capture that vibe so well with woozy synth lines and punchy vibraphone plinks that sound like morning showers as Frances Farmer has her revenge on Puget Sound. Other like "Drones", "Tagschlaf" and "Last Call" strip those nasty beats away and weave a special Café del Mar-like spell that down tempo tracks used to have back in the late Nineties.
Pezzner doesn't, however, completely abandon his roots on the album, either. There are nods to his previous body of work with Jacob London and it's found on "Chiuso Per Ferie", the opening cut - "Three Out of Five", and "Dewolfe" - in fact, "Dewolfe" could even be mistaken for an old Naked Music cut it's that funky house imbued. But more often he's reaching for something and fresh, like his stab at minimal techno on "Balboa Park". It's that reserved since of ambition which drives this album and Dave Pezzner makes it all work without reliance on things like anthems or flavor-of-the-moment gimmicks. Instead, he trusts his instincts and paints a living, breathing portrait of tech house done Seattle-style. It is also one of the year's best albums, thus far.
Title: The Tracks Are Alive LP
Label: Freerange Records
Our Rating: 8/10