While the electronic music universe (and really the whole of the music world in general) is every year utterly submerged in enough releases, both notable and forgettable, some truly striking albums are always bound to fall through the cracks. Though when it comes to these unsung gems that get lost in the tumult of interminable new releases, they usually don’t come from long-standing legends. Chicago native Larry Heard, more commonly known as Mr. Fingers, is easily one of the most important (and certainly one of the most talented) producers Chicago house has ever seen.
From early work in the 80s as part of the collective Fingers Inc. that mastered and refined the template for injecting pure Philly Soul into the fabric of dance floor jams, to his late 80s solo work that ran the gamut from typical deep house mastery to truly daring innovations in the warped world of acid house.
Tracks like “Can You Feel It” and “Washing Machine” remain staples of the era, and in the right club will still receive their due on the dance-floor, decades after the fact. Over the years, Mr. Fingers music has continued to appear and various compilations documenting the Chicago house scene of the 80s, as well as in DJ mixes compiled by younger artists showcasing their influences, but in the way of new releases, the man has remained dead quiet since the mid 90s. And then in early 2016, while nobody was paying attention, Mr. Fingers dropped his first proper release in over two decades.
The minimal fanfare “Outer Acid” received can perhaps be attributed to the fact that an EP (the release consists of four tracks, none quite reaching seven minutes) rarely makes the same waves of a fully marketed album, however, given the identity of the musician behind this EP, the lack of relatively widespread interest in it is curious, and given the sheer quality of the music contained therein, it is absolutely mind-boggling.
Mr. Fingers pioneered an unquestionably unique style of house production back in the 80s, and nobody could’ve taken offense to a return album (or EP) that saw him revisiting what he is known for, but it’s been quite a while since “Can You Feel It” first levelled Chicago dance floors.
During the interim, Mr. Fingers has grown older, and whether or not during that time he’s adopted the image and mentality of an aging EDM-pioneering guru with infinite wisdom to bestow on a new generation, “Outer Acid” certainly suggests such a paradigm. Where a younger Larry Heard opted for pounding 808s and erratic acid synth excursions abound, 2016’s Mr. Fingers has a more subdued approach; sure, the base materials for deep house and acid house in general are still present, and are unmistakably “of” Mr. Fingers, but they’ve been heavily recontextualized and reimagined.
The opening track (which happens to be the title track), is largely built upon the same tripped-out acid synth tones that have characterized Mr. Fingers up to this point, but the intense rhythmic pulsations and resonant keyboard melodies that would have been essential to a Fingers track circa 1987 have been stripped down to an almost hauntingly minimalist presence. The result is an understated and deeply hypnotic house track that drives one towards a dance-floor almost as much as it does towards ponderance and introspection. This tonal trend ultimately proves to define the EP, with each of its four tracks representing a different application of Mr. Fingers’ newfound minimalist sensibilities, each time to a seemingly even higher degree of success than the previous excursion.
“Outer Acid” is a rousing success by a bona-fide master of his craft who seems unafraid to redefine the and expand nature of that craft at every turn. Watching Mr. Fingers return to music under his old moniker represents a one of the most significant high points for electronic music in 2016, if not for in recent history.
Buy the EP here from Beatport