Jason Grove – 313.4.Life review

While a back-story shouldn’t be the deciding factor in appreciation of music, context is inescapable as a listener and it has the power to sway thumbs up or down depending on how seriously you take the information. With this latest release from Hardrock Striker’s French label Skylax, there’s already been a bit of fuss stirred up as to whether the history behind the music is true or not.

As legend would have it, Jason Grove is a Detroit original who chose to avoid the usual means of releasing and distributing his music with a Motor City-centric cassette deployment regime in the late eighties and early nineties, leaving his music very hard to come by for anyone outside the area, until Team Skylax happened across a cassette in Poo-Bah Records in Los Angeles and proceeded to license the tracks for two prior singles and now this album.

Naysayers are calling shenanigans on the ruse, and irrelevant as it should be to the quality of the music, it’s hard to form an objective opinion. What is undeniable is that the house music on offer across twelve tracks is exemplary, oozing warmth, charm, punch and focus. There’s an incredible level of musicality at work all over the place, whether it be a looped Rhodes hook or a fully developed turn on the keys as on “Juss”. One of the real highlights is the celebratory romp of “Latenight”, rocking a simple vocal hook and soft keys but dropping expertly into an exuberant slice of house music so groovy it would make MK blush. Operating in a similar way “Trippin” is a devastating example of how to inspire fevered responses through pure and simple house music.

There’s contemplative moments too, as on “Leave It For Today” with it’s sultry fretless bass and crooning vocal, while “The Path Of” is positively blue in its outlook. By and large though, this is fist-pumping business to get crowds of any size rocking out. As for the debate over the authenticity of the origins of the music, there is certainly a clarity of production here that is rarely found with large portions of the Detroit canon, at least in the early days. Be that as it may, the music is so good it transcends such doubts, and one can only hope that the talent responsible continues to deliver.

Oli Warwick