some ideas, some music, some gardening

Only You (Album, 1984) by Steve Monite

Cheesy and Living

I don't know if it was an algorithm or a recommendation that led me to this album, but I'm grateful to have found it. The two pillars of this album, “Only You (Disco Jam)” and “Things Fall Apart (Vocal)”, represent a time capsule of the transition from analog funk into a digitized variant, and the avant-garde nature of using minimalist electronics in that era. 

If these two tracks were released in the past decade, they would have been lauded as some kind of vaporwave spinoff, as Monite's producer Nkono Teles appears enamored by electronics, warping and bending and repeating phrases that are unfriendly to hit-making but quirky enough to stick in the head of adventurous listeners. In fact, the track “Only You” achieved cult status in the last ten years, and has been covered by the likes of Frank Ocean and used in modern DJ sets—the album has even been resold at prices exceeding one thousand dollars. 

While promoters describe the album's production as “futuristic”, it is very much the opposite, using synths that are beyond cheesy. But in the 80s, cheesy synths were all the rage, in the attempt at replacing drums with something different. For Only You, the cheesy percussive synths don't feel like a replacement for another instrument, but a destination to a new foundation for music. “This album is electronic, and here's some fun things we can do now because of the new frontier in which we journey.” Without emulation, there is innovation, where the producer doesn't know where they are going with their work, but for some reason it works for them. 

Regarding its recent popularity: My attraction to the album comes from its sheer disregard for traditional dance structures. It's a postmodern piece of electronic music that—indadvertently or not—questions what should be done to fill out a 6 minute track. The gaps between the repeated vocal melodies are cavernous. The effect choices are nearly improvised, giving off a live feeling for a looped track. “Only You” and “Things Fall Apart” stay alive in this millennium because they didn't die from genre-affixiation.