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Virgo Four – Resurrection review

Major props should go to Rush Hour for their single-minded obsession with celebrating the work of underground Chicago house pioneers Virgo (occasionally better known as Virgo Four). Re-releasing their long-forgotten 1989 album Virgo was a masterstroke (some would argue that it was one of the great ‘lost’ house sets), but little did we know that it was just the beginning. Somehow, they’ve persuaded Eric Lewis and Merwyn Sanders to trawl through an attic’s worth of dusty shoeboxes to rescue a whole box set’s worth of unreleased, unheard music. Any lover of electronic music should be thanking them.

Resurrection is quite stunning on many levels. The five record vinyl box-set contains a staggering 30 tracks, all previously unreleased, all recorded between 1984 and 1990 at various home studios around Chicago. To say they were recorded on cheap equipment, straight onto four-track tape (and then transferred to DAT), the sound quality is amazing. Sure, they’re raw and hiss a bit in places, but they still sound unbelievable – indeed that’s part of the charm.

Then there’s the small matter of the music itself. It’s no over-exaggeration to suggest that the tracks showcased here (and in particular the 16 tracks featured on the digital download/CD release) should be considered long-lost house classics; from the rubberband synths and mournful metallic strings of “Boing”to the industrial drum machine thump of “Crayon Box” and key-driven dancefloor melancholia of “Forever Yours”. Perhaps best of all, however, is the epic cowbell/string combo on “I Have Always Wanted”.

Certainly, the mix of early deep house, slinky vocal numbers, next-level acid experimentation and raw, midtempo dreamscapes is the equal of anything that emerged from the Windy City in that productive period from 1985-1990. For those with a passion for house music, it’s a rare treat.

Matt Anniss