At the beginning of 2020 London based record label Lobster Theremin released the compilation album Lobster Deep Classics, featuring releases from big names such as Palms Trax, Maruwa, and Shedbug. What is peculiar about the compilation is its focus on a genre you would not hear in a set by any of these DJs, a genre whose reputation has been tarnished by Ministry of Sound compilations and vlog intros: deep house. For a label renowned for it’s progressive and innovative releases the association with a genre most DJs declared dead years ago is perplexing. However, for the discerning listener willing to ignore their prejudices for two and a half hours, the reward is immense. The compilation offers twenty-five thumping, ethereal deep house tracks reminiscent of an Ibiza most of us are too young to remember. Lobster Theremin have created a love letter to a genre gone too soon, taken from us in its prime. RIP Deep House. This of course leads us to ask, when did it die and who killed it?
There was a time before the phrase ‘Deep House’ was taboo, a time before uttering it would earn you a swift suspension from the r/house reddit. The emergence of the genre is often traced back to the Chicago House of the late 80s and Larry Heard’s iconic ‘Mystery Of Love’. Larry Heard’s laid-back deep baselines created using the Roland Juno-60 became the foundation for a series of house tracks attempting to emulate his style. As the popularity of this so called ‘deep’ house style grew the term became a marketing tool. Before long the phrase was completely detached from its Chicago house roots being used instead as a byword for commercial Coachella-esque house. Now the music being blindly labelled ‘Deep House’ isn’t house at all, it’s EDM. The top ‘Deep House’ playlists currently on Spotify include the likes of Duke Dumont, Martin Solveig, and Tiësto. My problem is not with these artists per se (that’s a separate article), it is with their being labelled as ‘Deep House’ by a marketing executive intent on highjacking the genre’s popularity without any consideration for what it actually is.
Needless to say distinguishing real deep house from its bastardisation – most often found on a compilation album with artwork depicting a girl in a bikini on a beach – became so difficult that most DJs dispensed with the genre altogether. Lobster Theremin’s album reclaims deep house, it takes the foundation laid by Larry Heard and builds on it, experimenting with new rhythms and textures while remaining true to the genre.
The album has a distinctly nostalgic feel to it, perhaps propagated by drum machine loops lifted straight from 90s rave tracks. Lobster Theremin prove that it is possible to experiment with a genre without changing it entirely. Perhaps deep house isn’t dead just yet.
Image: Ministry of Sound via Wikipedia