For the past year or so, the electronic music glitterati have spent a considerable amount of time fussing over the phenomenon of lo-fi house, a sound defined by its adherence to the time-tested staples of house music — big kicks, disco influences, soulful vocals — while merging them with the gritty, muddy sound that inevitably emerges when aspiring bedroom producers neglect to polish their tracks to the standard of studio-produced work.
Among the artists frequently mentioned is Mall Grab, the artistic moniker of 23-year-old Australian Jordon Alexander. He has garnered attention not only for the fuzzy quality of his releases but also for producing absolute heaters and successfully sublimating his myriad influences into an undeniably house sound. Along with sampling the likes of Alicia Keys, Outkast, and Kanye West, Mall Grab’s track “I’ve Always Liked Grime” has stood out for playfully making grime — a sound not generally known for filling dance floors — as viable with dance aficionados as any other genre.
Mall Grab will make his hotly anticipated Miami debut tomorrow night at Floyd as part of the party series Extra Credit. After thoroughly conquering last summer with the EP Pool Party Music, Mall Grab will appropriately swing by to heat up this uncharacteristically cool Miami winter.
But even as the young artist tours global dance-music meccas and generates headlines in respected publications, Mall Grab’s continued upward trajectory begs the questions: Has “lo-fi” house become an extraneous descriptor, and can we safely say we’re in the crest of a proper house-music revival?
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Reports of house music’s death and its glorious resurrection have been greatly exaggerated time and again: The 2010s have been littered with think pieces diagnosing house music’s health and trying to sort out what it all means. In the halcyon days of 2013, Vice was already asking, “What’s Going to Kill the House Revival?” preemptively laying the blame (not entirely without justification) at the feet of boorish Americans and Disclosure.
Five years onward, the American pop landscape is still creeping with the seemingly unkillable horde of EDM acts (a special shout-out to the Chainsmokers and their new single for making the comparison to EDM as a blight quite literal), and Disclosure remain in a self-imposed hiatus following their breakthrough as crossover artists. And yet the propagation of house music has continued unabated, led by releases from the likes of Peggy Gou, as well as life-affirming DJ sets by the Black Madonna and Jackmaster. It’s naive to assert that house music had ever died or was resuscitated; ideas are notoriously hard to kill, and when an idea is as strong as uniting a dance floor under an addictive groove and an uplifting hook, it’s going to have legs. As Mall Grab and his lo-fi contemporaries DJ Boring and Ross From Friends have demonstrated, good ideas tend to refine themselves with the times.
Whether we’re in the midst of a boom or on the verge of a bust is irrelevant, because house music is experiencing one of the many moments it’ll have over its lifetime. Marshall Jefferson once urged listeners to ride the rhythm; as long as it’s being provided by the likes of Mall Grab, we’ll be happy to oblige.