Eris Drew seems like she’s been a mainstay of electronic music for much longer than she has — at least as far as international listeners, who cottoned on around 2018, are concerned. The DJ-divinations of Chicago’s former best-kept secret have now reached a wider audience than anyone might have predicted. The faintest amount of exposure quickly explains why.
On the decks, Eris — who we’ll keep on first name, mythological terms — has a luminescent and tantric quality, able to intuitively locate exactly what a crowd was looking for and keep them at the precipice of pleasure for hours on end. Where it might be tempting to flick the switch and go turbo, Eris instead lets emotion simmer and bubble. This knack for synergising euphoric house and techno with all the whistles, bells, smileys and communal promise of rave culture’s explosion come to bear on debut album “Quivering In Time”.
Part of what has made Eris’ message resonate over the past handful of years is the way she taps into a wider lineage of classic dance music and commits it to a contemporary moment; Old and New Testaments dancing in twine. “Quivering In Time”’s opener, ‘Time to Move Close’, sets the scene. A comfortable mid-120bpm tempo, sci-fi flourishes, echoes of bleep ‘n bass, the distant invocation of a voice: this is a ready-made template that can speak to many of clubland’s myriad sub-tribes simultaneously. It’s lysergic, thumping, yearning and cosy all at once.
Cosiness is a relatively new factor in Eris’ world. It’s right there on the cover, designed by Chicago’s equally-revered underground staple sold, which shows Eris and musical/life partner Octo Octa’s woodland cabin through a rhubarb and custard lens. Whether the colourway’s hat-tip to Shaft’s 1991 toytown techno hit ‘Roobarb and Custard’ was intentional or not, it’s certainly an effective nod to rave’s heyday. Plenty of “Quivering In Time” would slot into Altern-8’s “Full On... Mask Hysteria” without anyone blinking.
Even while sequestered away from nightlife, Eris can’t help but fashion music for it. A less ostensibly peak-time cut like ‘Baby’ streamlines and flattens her trademark palette, but all the tasting notes remain: the tremulous Reese-ish bassline, chattering samples, and a kind of swaggering self-belief you’d pick up from Art of Noise or The KLF. A huge step (on) toward the promised land of baggy bliss occurs on the album’s penultimate tune, ‘Ride Free’, which repurposes that indelible sample from 1966 film “The Wild Angels”, just as Andrew Weatherall did on the holy grail of ‘90s love-ins, Primal Scream’s “Loaded”.
As far as a leading shaman for the current generation goes, though, Eris can’t be beat. “Quivering In Time” articulates why: by tapping into and nurturing dance music’s roots, she allows a vibrant new branch to grow.