Some album titles can be ambiguous or misleading, sometimes relying on an in-joke or a pun. This is not one of those occasions. There’s no sense of misdirection with the excellent Houses, as Steve Spacek draws on his love of house music to put together nine tracks (13 on the digital and CD versions) that have the sound of Detroit flowing through their grooves. Spacek is something of a veteran, having worked both as a solo artist and with a range of collaborators for a long time, first releasing music some thirty years ago, before raising his profile around the turn of the century, in the trio Spacek. More recently, he’s recorded as Beat Spacek for Ninja Tune (the heavy, off-kilter Modern Streets) and as Africa HiTech, with Mark Pritchard. But a glance at the Jedi-like pose on the cover gives no doubt who is in charge here.
There is a properly solo feel to Houses, too, as the method of making the album stems from an unexpected corner: it was produced entirely using iPad and iPhone apps, an approach that was introduced on Spacek’s iOS Mixtape in 2015. The apps themselves aren’t listed but it is clear that they afford the opportunity to produce tracks without pressure. Spacek can sit in an airport lounge, and craft a cracking 4/4 beat, or capture a vocal hook in a hotel bathroom, should he wish – wherever inspiration strikes. Spacek’s recent output has reflected an increased work-rate, with Houses a second solo album in a little over 12 months, so clearly he is making the most of the technology available rather than getting bogged down playing… (checks best-selling apps chart) Candy Crush.
This sense of freedom is tangible in the music on Houses which seems to glide over the 4/4 beats that anchor the tracks. The nine tracks that just about squeeze on a single vinyl disc run from the light-as-a-feather jazzy opener “Rawl Aredo” through the taut but pretty “Songlife” to the strident closing “Love 4 Nano”, characterised by a blaring synth lead. It’s not the most natural way to end the 45 or so minutes but it does make for a smooth transition into the four ‘bonus’ tracks which certainly give the impression that the kick drum’s volume has been nudged up a little. On the CD and digital editions, the sense is that Houses is one, long, build from a vampy Rhodes keyboard all the way to “Child Insperation” that could be mistaken for a lost Other People Place track. It’s as if Spacek is now only constrained by the time limits of selected formats. He could go on and on and, thankfully, shows no sign of running out of inspiration. (Jeremy Bye)