Warning: The above video contains language some may find offensive.
As artistic introductions to the world go, repetitiously reinforcing "I am the controller" over a squeaky-clean dancefloor get-down is a strong one. That Channel Tres is doing so on the cusp of rooftop dance season is a savvy bit of scheduling. And a welcome one.
"Controller," written by Channel Tres and Nick Sylvester, recalls the bright, optimistic postures of Chicago house legend Cajmere (not to mention a shared love of ecstatic saxophones). You can hear inspiration, too, in the somersaulting percussion of another bold-faced name from Chicago, Mike Dunn, and his song "Phreaky MF." But where house music thrives in subtle variations over extended lengths, "Controller" concisely develops, crests and pulls back, before closing its final minute by slyly, seamlessly nodding to '90s R&B. It's a history lesson and a statement of purpose, wrapped and dusted in three-and-a-half minutes.
The video, directed by Goodwin (who was behind the equally crew-heavy video for Makonnen's "Tuesday"), offers an alternative lens on Compton, where Channel Tres is from and has been working as a songwriter for artists like Duckwrth and Kehlani. If you had to name the motif, it would be grown-up pastels, a group of friends and collaborators quite clearly accustomed to setting their own agendas.
"Controller" is out on Godmode, a record label run by Nick Sylvester — a pop songwriter and a James Murphy protégé in a past life — and former major label A&R Talya Elitzer. The duo has been a reliably overachieving scout of talent for some years, bringing early attention to Shamir and more recently Yaeji, whose Detroit house-citing single "raingurl" landed like a hot coal late last year. That Channel Tres arrives here today as clean and polished and as calm as a veteran is remarkable, but not surprising.