Jay Denes, recording exclusively (and rarely) these days as Blue Six, is one of the most remarkable artists in dance music. I’ve always been fascinated with the guy’s records and the heady philosophy behind them, to the extent of sending out fan letters and trying to set up interviews and features that just never quite came together.
Jay releases on Naked Music, which was probably the label that best defined the late ’90s/early 2000s in American House Music. It’s really hard to explain it to people today, as perceptions of “good labels” have changed from the monoliths of the distant past like Strictly Rhythm to the DIY, almost arts & crafts set-up of inspired individual producers today. Naked Music was somewhat monolithic and totally inspired, in the way that projects involving so many individuals working together rarely are.
Some of Naked Music’s peers still limp along as either hollowed out holding companies or ambiguous “brands”. Naked has scaled back as well, but not out of necessity. After a crash on the rocks of a joint venture with Virgin (something few indie labels have survived), a retreat was somewhat expected, but not a complete reinvention. Naked has tracked the evolution of Jay Denes himself, from a dance music A&R genius and production savant to a kind of House Music balladeer.
There are many people in this industry who contemplate issues like spirituality, personal development, science and the world and the universe in their music. Most of them make boring and unlistenable shit. But Jay is an artist, one of our greatest, and his dialogue with the world continues on Signs & Wonders.
Jay’s last album, Noesis, was one of the most underrated records of the last five years. Overshadowed in his own catalog by 2002’s triumphant Beautiful Tomorrow, it was the work of a man who seemed to have figured a few things out about life, but found himself unsure how he could explain it in a way that could be understood. Longtime listeners won’t be surprised by the chill vibes, luxuriant instrumentation and sometimes disarmingly quiet mood throughout Signs & Wonders – this is essentially the same vein that Denes has been mining for more than a decade now. Sometimes the songs only make their fullest impression after several spins – it is entirely possible, for instance, to become lost in the groove of “Star People”, like night in some kind of labyrinth of dim light and half-muted sound. Songs like this and “Beyond This Life” evoke something of the seance more than the house party. Other songs like “Sophia” appear to be the sort of thing that could be remixed into hard trance if one wanted to, but here is bent & cured into something of a marvelously quiet, contemplative masterpiece.
Having pulled out Beautiful Tomorrow and Noesis prior to listening to this, I don’t think Jay has changed the “Blue Six sound” all that much over the years. These familiar soundscapes form the structure upon which some of the most meaningful dance music being made takes root. I don’t think even Jay is entirely sure where this is going. I’m glad he’s taken us along for the ride, though.