To listen to an Andy Compton house-music set is to give one’s self over to the joyful essence of the style.
House music aims to surround its listeners with warm vibes and body- vibrating beats — but in today’s world of widely shared backing tracks and digital building blocks, all too often the construction can feel rather … robotic.
Not so in his case; because Compton himself is an instrumentalist — he started out as a kid obsessed with guitar — and often builds his music from live instrumental tracks, the music has a human frequency.
In 2018, Compton released a widely heard track called “My Frequency,” featuring gentle vocals, bubbling vibes and a soothing, uplifting synth backing. It’s a clue to his hyperactive approach to making and recording music, that he’s remixed it at least six times already, in “soulful,” “chill,” “jazzy,” “dub” and “deep house” versions.
To listen to Compton talk is also to give one’s self over to frequent bursts of laughter.
He’s prone to talk in effusive gusts, describing his love of nature, a certain music, or the South African city of Soweto, for example. Then he might turn the full- forward description into a gentle joke or funny aside — as when he revealed that when his music started getting played in South Africa, DJs would slow it down, so that the female vocals sounded like those of a man.
He’s a prolific composer, mix-maker and producer, as a solo artist with his own Peng label, as leader of a collective, The Rurals, and collaborator with dozens of other artists and outfits.
Electronic music website ResidentAdvisor.net details more than 30 albums and 120 EPs from Compton, including several produced in South Africa since 2010.
He’s toured the U.S. “30 or 40” times, he said, but hasn’t been to Hawaii. For his first visit here, he’ll headline Paradisco Honolulu’s “Summer Sessions,” a monthly dance party at the Hyatt Centric, on Sunday.
COMPTON CALLS the city of Bristol, England, home, though he says open country is just a bike ride away, and he tends to split his time between the city and the countryside.
He grew up on a farm not far outside the city limits, starting out as a rocker — he shut himself in to practice guitar as a teen in the early ’90s, and toured with a heavy metal band. But not long after he relocated to the city of Nottingham with the band, he became acquainted with and then captivated by the soulful, deep house music tracks from the U.S. that he started hearing in the city’s clubs.
“I literally sold my guitar to get some decks, and turned into a DJ,” he said.
House music originated in Chicago, a rhythmic, electronic dance music with roots in disco, and soon, infectiously, spread into DJ repertoires and dance clubs worldwide. Along the way, it developed branches including deep house, incorporating funk and jazz elements. Compton’s body of work draws deeply from this well of propulsive rhythm and underlying emotion.
“I fell in love with it. I couldn’t stop listening to it,” he said. “I wanted to make this stuff.”
Playing live instruments, he and his collective created recorded sets of house music in the mid- to late-’90s. “It was like, jazzy house,” he said. “We were perhaps the first people in the U.K. doing that kind of live, deep house, which was like, no loops … kind of like a live band feel.”
His music with The Rurals is still heavily listened to and downloaded. Compton remembers: “We were doing this sound, and we didn’t even know if anyone liked it. There was no internet at the time. We were just literally at our studio on the farm — in the farmhouse, just jamming, and this guy, a distributor, got a hold of me and put out our records, and it started selling!”
JAZZ AND SOUL music form the basis of his work. Compton makes no secret of his extreme admiration for Roy Ayers (who appears at the Blue Note Hawaii this Tuesday and Wednesday) — a jazz vibraphonist who created a series of exuberant, much-sampled funk- and soul-inflected records in the ’70s.
“I guess I get obsessed with certain types of music, but I’ve been stuck on soul music for quite a while now,” he said. “There’s so much to find. Soul music, jazz, funk. … that’s where my heart is.”
About 20 years ago, Compton’s music began being distributed in South Africa, becoming extremely popular there. But he didn’t travel to South Africa himself until 2011. He was surprised when he arrived that his music was so well-known.
“I was on mainstream radio,” he marveled. “It was out of control! It was like another world.”
Since then, he has recorded in South Africa, collaborated with and produced music by South African artists, including a series with a group dubbed the “Sowetan Onesteps,” because rooms in the Soweto studio they worked in were one step apart.
Inevitably, hints of African rhythms have crept in to Compton’s music, and he labels some of his tracks “Afro House.” But he continues to seek out his own sounds.
Compton says the compositions largely arise from his experiences in and around Bristol and the surrounding countryside, his infatuation with nature, and his immersion in soul, jazz and funk music of the early ’70s. “I’ve learned that making music for myself is the best way,” he said.
A quick survey of his music and enthusiasms might lead you to call his music “sunny,” but Compton says he’s also been known to go “dark.” Certain of his deep house and acid jazz tracks prove that.
Largely, though, his is a music of percolating enthusiasm. While it’s often rainy in Bristol, he said, that’s when it feels good to cozy up in his musical studio and create some uplifting, beat-driven music.
“I haven’t got sunshine, but I’ve got music,” he said. “Good vibrations.”
Here in Honolulu, he’ll bring his “thousands of songs” with him, and says he decides what to play after sussing out the vibe of an event.
“I’m just going to go with the flow and see what’s going on,” he said. “It’s going to be soulful, for sure — it will definitely be something to dance to.”
Whatever his choice, you can count on it to be full of heart.
PARADISCO: ‘SUMMER SESSIONS’
With DJs Andy Compton (U.K.), Uncle Fran (NYC), Curdz (NYC), Jeanne P (Hawaii) and Princess X (Hawaii)
>>Where: Hyatt Centric Waikiki, 349 Seaside Ave.
>> When: 4-10 p.m. Sunday
>> Cost: $20, $15 advance
>> Info: residentadvisor.net