John Roberts John RobertsGlass Eights
DIAL In the first seconds of “Dedicated” we hear rain falling on the street, raindrops beating against the glass. Although it might sound idiotic, the resource is fundamental for determining the scope of an album that knows nothing about light mornings or tacky euphoria. The claps and drums are faded, it is autumnal deep house, the zenith of which arrives among synthesisers that sound like a phantasmal organ. When the beat drops and the song ends, the rain comes back. This is one of the most exciting songs on the album: it scorches your soul, making you dance with your glassy eyes glued to the window. It is major electronic music, because John Roberts strikes a chord without forgetting to keep everything working for him on the dance floor. What few foresaw in the maxis that the American established in Berlin has spread out between Feel Music, Dial, and the sub-label Laid will now be consensus: you have to be deaf or have serious cognitive problems not to conclude that “Glass Eights” is one of the best dance music albums of 2010.
“Porcelain” for example, is a piece of Chinese porcelain belonging to the Min(g)imal Dynasty: Roberts’ sinister organ is at the bottom of the production, and it is crossed by another blast of percussion in homage to Chicago, as well as a synthesiser melody that runs through your brain from ear to ear, as if it had crossed through your head with a magic wand. I can’t get over such craftsmanship. The album flows, floating on the ceiling of your room like a cloud of steam, separating you from the world with an amazing ease. It is followed by another moment worthy of ovation, with “August”, a summer title for a winter song. The way that he has of reinventing Windy City deep house is overwhelming: he seeks out echoes of nostalgia, resorting to hypnotic sounds that seem to have been gotten from a gramophone, and he doesn’t give up on the classic beat of the cymbal and drum: it’s a lesson from beginning to end.
If “Glass Eights” makes anything clear, it is that there are still things to be said as far as deep house goes; the problem is that not many people know how to say it. John Roberts knows the wave frequencies and the alchemy of immortal dance music perfectly, what feeds your feet and your head. The floor is too small for an album that exudes beauty in every detail: the permanent rustling of vinyl, the dark synthesisers, the perfectly-measured affectation, the winding breaks, the inclusion of real instrumentation, the aroma of mould. Loveliness is a virtue here; nostalgia is the drug. John Roberts handles few elements, but he gets a lot of mileage out of them. The Gothic pianos of “Lesser”, the bubbling low notes of “Navy Blue” (emo-bounce, we could call it), the instrumental background reverberations in “Ever or Not”, the funeral tempos of “Pruned”, the cello on “Glass Eights” (5 minutes of deep ecstasy to close the album to resounding applause). There is no respite; there isn’t a single extra cut. Not even the super-long piano solo in “Went”, in the purest Michael Nyman style, sounds overdone. In spite of his short career and apparent lack of experience, John Roberts has put out an exciting work, an album that raises deep house and the Chicago legacy up to outer space, and he leaves it in a coma up there, drifting eternally in the cosmic blackness. An electrical shock is shooting up my spine—I would swear it’s got cold earlier than usual.
Óscar Broc John Roberts - Glass Eights