It’s been a while since we last heard from Steve Summers, one of the many musical aliases of former Brooklyn and Berlin resident turned Chicago-based producer Jason Letkiewicz. When he last landed on proudly Chicagoan imprint CLEAR with the robust and unearthly “Artificial Light” EP, it was on the back of nine years spent building up Steve Summers as a purveyor of forthright club cuts that pushed at the limits of acceptability.
That was 2017. In the three years since, Letkiewicz has prioritized projects that indulge different sides of his complex musical persona. There was the critically acclaimed, all-action Mutant Beat Dance “record album booklet” on Rush Hour – a collaboration with Melvin Oliphant III and Beau Wanzer – and then the EBM, electro and industrial-influenced grooves of Opposing Currents on Artificial Dance. 2018 also saw him release the sophomore set from his 1980s horror soundtrack-infused Death Commando project, while in 2019 Letkiewicz finally put out his first album under his given name – the picturesque new age and ambient movements of “The Reflecting Pool” on Into The Light.
But that was then. Now Letkiewicz has finally donned the Steve Summers pseudonym again for a return to CLEAR that’s defiantly intense and otherworldly in tone, “Counter-Factuals” is powered primarily by the kind of psychedelic acid lines and thrusting machine drums that have long been a hallmark of Chicago house. This is no nostalgia-fest though, with Letkiewicz’s take on “acid” being more abstract and unorthodox than the music of his predecessors.
Proof of this analysis arrives straight away, with EP opener “Counter-Factuals” ratcheting up the intensity through waves of hallucinatory acid lines, blunted electronics, druggy male vocal samples and clanking machine beats. Letkiewicz takes similar sonic approach on “People Watching”, whose full-throttle approach cuts a path through jacking acid house, surging EBM and the more dystopian aspects of 1980s industrial music.
Over on side B, Letkiewicz combines all of these sounds and inspirations on a cut that pivots around the twin attractions of trance-inducing acid lines and hypnotic analogue beats. Clocking in at a fraction less than nine minutes, the track surges forward relentlessly on a tornado of off-key electronics, fizzing TB-303 acid lines and barely audible speech snippets. It seems a fitting conclusion to one of Letkiewicz’s most impactful releases to date.