Wax Runoff: Tevo Howard [THUG 006]
Tevo Howard has been a fixture in Chicago’s dance music history for decades. An artist who wears many hats, he is an accomplished DJ, composer, writer, instrumentalist, and live performer.
In 2014, I picked up The Drapes in the Living Room EP at Gramaphone Records in Chicago after seeing it featured prominently on one of the recommendation walls, among the many prolific local house producers. Before even listening to the record, what drew me to the release was the beautiful black and white hand-sketched artwork on the cover from the Chicago-based street and fine art creator, Slang. Thug Records out of Sydney, Australia was a label I was unfamiliar with prior to picking up this release, but it’s catalogue contains offerings from Larry Heard, Jeff Samuel, John Tejada, and even DJ Slugo.
Recorded at Tevo’s own Beautiful Granville Studios in Chicago, all four of these tracks are lush, warm, and intimate, perfect for home listening or perhaps an early evening opening set or late morning after hours gathering. I tend to shy away from including a lot of melody-driven music in my own DJ sets, but these tunes are groove-driven enough to work well when transitioning to and from more beat-driven tracks. As with many of Howard’s releases, all four tunes feel familiar in terms of their connections to the classic Chicago house “sound” paying homage to those traditions in their structure and classic drum machine samples. However, they have a clean and modern finish. The EP was impeccably engineered by Dietrich Shoenemann at Complete Mastering, which contributes to their polished and professional aesthetic.
What stands out in all four songs, for me, is the thoughtful balance between the forward-moving bass lines – which have a touch of funk – and the rich, velvety pads. They’re dreamy, but not meandering. They’re persistent, but not at all repetitive or pedantic.
When my son was about three months old in 2015, I was on maternity leave from my day-job, trying to figure out how to navigate the beautiful but often stressful “newborn” phase while itching to get back to DJing. I had a baby that was a great night-sleeper, but had a difficult time taking those necessary daytime naps. Baby-wearing and mixing records saved my sanity during those early months because I would play a few tracks for him and within a few minutes, he would drift off to sleep in his carrier, allowing me to keep enjoying my favorite hobby. I ended up recording these practice sessions at home once a month and released three of them in a little mix series I called “The Lullaby Sessions.” Tevo’s “Shaquanda” from The Drapes in the LivingRoom E.P. is the third track on the first mix. The baby always really loved that one.
Unfortunately, this EP is out of stock with most online record retailers and very few sellers have it listed on Discogs, so if you find this gem in your local brick and mortar shops, definitely pick it up for a gorgeous addition to your house collection. The more I revisit these tracks, the more I appreciate their simplicity and sensuality.
Wax Runoff is a weekly feature that will showcase new finds and crate favorites. Guest writer Elly Schook (aka “Kiddo”) is a DJ and vocalist living in Chicago. She has been DJing since 2004, but has been collecting vinyl since she was a little kid. She still gets as excited about buying a new (or “new to her”) record as she did when she was five years old.