Kenny Dope featuring Robert Owens “Bricks Down” Remixes
Masters at Work, Mr. G and Doc Daneeka perform all work their house-music magic on the floor-filling original.
Kenny “Dope” Gonzalez and Robert Owens are a couple of guys who need little in the way of introduction, but just in case, here’s the CliffsNotes version: Among many other claims to fame, the former is one half of the hallowed Masters at Work production team, while the latter has been one of house music’s go-to vocalists since the genre’s inception. Collaborating on the original “Bricks Down,” released this past autumn, the pair crafted a soulful, funk-fueled and driving cut that came off as a jacked-up homage—featuring a similarly toned, though considerably tougher bassline—to Owens’s 1987 Larry Heard–produced classic, “Bring Down the Walls.” (That’s high praise, by the way.) Now a quartet of remixes have hit the shops and, if anything, they outdo the original.
Aficionados of house’s classical traditions will initially be drawn to a pair of Masters at Work versions; somewhat shockingly, this is the first new music coming from the hands of Gonzalez and his longtime partner Louie Vega for over a decade. It would unfair to say that they’ve picked up exactly where they left off—after all, not much could compare to, say, “The Nervous Track” (released in 1993 under the Nuyorican Soul moniker) or 1991’s gorgeous “Our Mute Horn.” But Gonzalez and Vega’s main remix comes pretty damn close, and captures that beloved MAW vibe via its smoothed-out yet jacking feel, deceptively simple (yet deadly effective) synths and drums, and a naggingly familiar “hey” vocal bit that’s reminiscent of the similarly employed “yeah” sample of their version of Debbie Gibson’s “One Step Beyond.” The KenLou Rubber Dub, meanwhile, strips things down a touch, replacing a bit of Owens’s yearning vocals with those synths while keeping the plaintive, late-night mood of the track intact.
Those mixes alone would be enough to satisfy most house-head traditionalists—but they’d be remiss in ignoring contributes from Doc Daneeka and Mr. G. Daneeka layers a subtly acidic bassline, a “let the bricks fall” Owens snippet and various dub effects over a rat-a-tat rhythm, ending up with a propulsive groove that’s both streamlined and considerably rawer than the Masters at Work mixes. But the best of the lot might be Mr. G’s monster re-rub: Like the original, it uses an immensely appealing hollowed-out bass tone (and those sensuous vocals) as the hook, but sits them atop an aggressive proto-disco beat that’s both hypnotic and addictive. Sure, there’s a bit of old-school nostalgia involved in all these remixes—that’s hard to avoid when you have Owens as the star attraction. But house is a feeling, after all, and these tracks have emotion to spare.