By Melina Paris, Contributing Music Writer
Los Angeles disc jockey, Terence Toy, loves house music so much that he also goes by the moniker, “Terence House Toy.”
He started spinning house tracks in the early 1980s when this music was progressing rapidly through major east Coast cities. His approach to his craft is unique, artistic, deep and soulful. It is the key to how he has made a prominent name for himself throughout California and across the country and abroad.Released in January, Refuge 8, Air Dawn Water Autumn is a compilation of songs that Toy arranged. The name was created from a series of parties he and friends used to throw, in part, for house music fans to seek refuge within this music.
This is the eighth in a series but Toy has about 20 CDs under his belt.
From the start, Refuge 8 provides what its name implies, transporting you to a joyous place. The tracks are engineered with remarkable clarity. The beats, electronics, vocals and even more sounds come through individually. Toy does a masterful job of mixing them together, to construct inspiring rhythms. I notably enjoyed well over half of this
album with 13 songs in all. Here are some of my favorites.
The first two tracks grabbed me immediately. The vocals in the first song, “How’s Life,” sung by The Society, reminded me of the artist Lil’ Louie from one of the first house music tapes (yes, this music goes back) I had. “How’s Life,” is made up of jazzy notes consisting in part of the sounds of vibraphone, saxophone and organ. Smooth background vocals give this song a melodious funky groove with each instrumental sound laid over the last fluidly.
The build into the next track “Heavenly” sung by Dana Weaver is seamless. Toy has great skill in elevating dancers into the perfect groove. I’ve come to expect this kind of transition from one cut to the next from him as well and he doesn’t disappoint, I have now completely embarked on this journey with Toy and it’s a blissful trip, which is what deep house music is about.
“Vida Verde” by John Crocket, starts off with a light freestyle bass and clap. With an added Latin percussive beat and keys. The blending of vocals here adds richer layers and deeper notes on the keys give depth to the intensity of the beats per minute. With bongo drum beats building and teasing you into a frenzy Toy delivers you right into the next cut, “Bongo Conga” by The Prayer laying out thumping rhythms and escalating the tempo with sounds of cymbals and tambourines. Mixing vocals in what sounds almost like monks chanting, Toy lifts your spirit into the cosmos.
Toy creates a mood and emotion on the dance floor and this carefully crafted skill is expressed in this album as well. He starts with a great groove, lifting you up, getting real funky escalating higher and bringing the dancer into a whole new dimension. It’s just the same on the next cut, “Afro-Ma Therapy” by Ongaku, you are now in a jungle. Vocals are carried over from the last number and laid out on top of electronics that mimic musical and animal sounds you might imagine while in a tropical forest with birds calling, drums beating and the sound of maracas shaking.
“Set Me Free” by xoli starts with a slow build. The smooth background vocals and beats invite you to float like a cloud on the rhythm. Soulful keys and the sounds of string instruments mixed in draw you into a deeper groove.
“Master Blaster Jammin,” by Toy, features Jairus Johnson. Toy layers vocals like an echo on top of each other with bongos, bass, clap, vibraphone and more. This is a fun number with surprisingly different levels of beats. The percussion, vocals and bass are hitting you from every direction possible. This number is a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Master Blaster Jammin.” Toy says he reconstructed the whole song and produced this cut with what he calls a “mild Afro–Latin techy twist” The beats per minute are between 124 and 128, typical for a deep house number but it sounds different with the array of seven or more instrumental sounds that are on this track.
Toy mentioned he is known for doing other House music covers on his albums but “Master Blaster Jammin’ is his own studio creation Sidney Perry’s “Something About the Music” is a party number with a tribal sound and declarative lyrics: “And then the earth opened up with a mighty roar and what came up was nothing but the funk sinking deep into your brain leaving an indelible mark on your rump, something about the music.”
With a nod of respect to George Clinton’s linguistic style and the lead into an extended sample from, Parliament Funkadelic’s “(Not Just) Knee Deep,” the song follows with the lyrics: “This music will persist until you are in alignment with your sun. There’s something about this music for each and every one, now boogie.”
“The Spirit,” by Dawn Tallman, is a spiritual with the lyrics:
“We catch the spirit in the clouds and you can feel it inside of us. All through your body and through your soul just let the spirit take control.”
This number is an electronic buffet of beats and sounds, including bass and clap, and gun machine. With precise engineering the rhythm builds.
Glide along on the sounds of string instruments escalating your mood and your groove. This track is a combination of spiritual and tech. The vocals and keys hold down and connect the two types of music and the listener’s state of mind. This sets this groove into a new combination of a sort of “spiritechology,” if you will, for the dance floor in the new era” Toy has indeed created another refuge for “house headz” his affectionate term for fans of house music. If you seek a haven, Refuge 8 Air Dawn Water Autumn is your sanctuary.
You can see Terence spinning deep house live at his first in-store appearance at Amoeba Music at 8 p.m. March 1, in Los Angeles. Terence Toy’s latest house mix is available at terencetoy.com.