Tommie Sunshine shows his roots on Growth | Bleader

Tommie Sunshine shows his roots on Growth


Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe


Hirsute dance music fixture and former Chicago resident Tommie Sunshine is essentially a DJ's DJ—he was a major presence on the rave scene back when it was strictly an underground phenomenon, and over the past decade or so he's remixed everyone from Felix da Housecat to Fall Out Boy to Katy Perry, but his fan base still consists almost entirely of EDM scenesters and the smarter type of record-industry insider. While it's cool, sort of, that he's this kind of secret amongst people in the know, he deserves better.

One of my favorite things about Tommie is his regard for dance music's roots. He takes to Twitter frequently to advocate for classic house and techno, and occasionally to harangue EDM musicians and fans who are ignorant about anything that came out more than five years ago (of which there are a depressingly vast number). He's not afraid to let his old-school influences show, either. His remixes and original tracks frequently nod toward pioneering DJs such as Ron Hardy, Frankie Knuckles, and Larry Levan, who assisted in the evolution of disco into house music decades ago.

His new Growth EP, which he released yesterday as a free download sponsored by Scion AV, makes his retro tendencies more explicit. (Disclosure: I occasionally work for Scion AV as a freelancer.) Over the course of five tracks in a zippy 24 minutes, he delivers tributes to such diverse and extremely specific sounds as digital dancehall, acid house, and hip-house. His renditions of the style are almost spookily accurate—the hip-house homage "Chicago" that starts the record off features vocals by Fast Eddie, a legendary Chicago practitioner of the form, and its staccato synth organ and bombastic Information Society-style found-sound sample would have fit in just fine in any number of late-80s dance tracks.

Growth isn't just about pitch-perfect copies of old sounds, though. The trance-tinged rave-pop cut "Mr. Night" that closes the record is enough of an earworm that I spent most of last night with the vocal hook (delivered by someone named "Polina") stuck in my head after only one listen. It took an entire set by a hockey-themed hardcore band to dislodge it.