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Ten City’s fifth album, 2021’s Judgement (Ultra), was a long time in the making—and not just because the crucial Chicago house group’s previous album, That Was Then, This Is Now, came out 27 years earlier. The origins of Judgement arguably go even further back than 1986, when Ten City producer Marshall Jefferson issued the foundational house single “Move Your Body” through Trax Records. Three years before that, future Ultra Records founder Patrick Moxey had moved to town to attend the University of Chicago, where he helped Ken Wissoker launch WHPK’s first hip-hop show, started a magazine at the station (for which he interviewed the likes of Big Black), and booked occasional gigs, including one with house trio Fingers Inc. Moxey also sharpened his DJ skills under the tutelage of Joe Smooth, spun at Smart Bar, and hung out at Medusa’s and other house hot spots. Moxey moved to New York City in the late 1980s, where he became an industry player—in the years since he founded Ultra in 1996, the label has worked with EDM stars such as Calvin Harris, Kaskade, Deadmau5, and Steve Aoki—but before he left, he met Marshall Jefferson. A few years ago, after Jefferson reconnected with Ten City vocalist Byron Stingily, Moxey and Ultra label exec David Waxman reached out about releasing new Ten City music.
This version of Ten City is different, of course, not least because it’s missing a key member of the band’s classic lineup, guitarist and backup vocalist Herb Lawson. But the DNA of their music hasn’t changed. On Judgement, the new duo version refine their soulful resplendence and maintain their fidelity to addictive rhythms—their beats work subtly, but they draw you in as powerfully as a colossal horseshoe magnet that Wile E. Coyote might order from Acme. The album feels both contemporary and familiar, in part because it includes reworked material from the late 80s: two new remixes of the 1987 single “Devotion” and a sharpened update of 1989’s chart-topping “That’s the Way Love Is.” Stingily’s otherworldly falsetto has gotten slightly raspy with age, which lends an alluring new earthiness to the group’s sleek style. Ten City surely won’t let another 27 years pass between albums, since they’ve already released more music—this summer they dropped the light disco number “A Girl Named Phil.”
Ten City Part of the Chicago House Music Festival and Conference, which runs from Thu 9/15 through Sun 9/18. Patrick Moxey will be interviewed on Thu 9/15 at 8:30 PM at the Logan Center for the Arts. On Fri 9/16, Ten City headline; the bill also includes Josh Milan and his band and a celebration of Robert Williams and the Chosen Few DJs. 5:30 PM, Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, 201 E. Randolph, free, all ages