After his Glass Eights long player proved to the world that he was a formidable talent, John Roberts went rather quiet. In the four years he has been releasing music he has never seemed concerned with rushing material out, largely sticking to his chosen homestead of the Dial / Laid family in Hamburg and gently coaxing out distinguished shades of house music that have a compositional classicism rare among modern day producers. While his previous singles had hinted at a musical training beyond MIDI mapping, Glass Eights was proof that Roberts could wield all manner of orchestral devices with grace and poise, and the critical acclaim followed accordingly.
Listening to the debut album by US producer John Roberts, it’s hard to believe that he is still in his 20s. Usually, it’s the case that such accomplished, detailed works are the result of years spent locked away in the studio, but in this instance, Roberts seems to have arrived out of nowhere with a mature palette. It’s audible from the get-go on opening track “Lesser”, where the sound of a hissing record proves the introduction for plaintive piano keys and raw, dubby beats. A similar musical approach prevails on “Ever or Not”, where a classical piano dominates a gentle house groove and with “Pruned”, a wide-eyed composition populated by rich yet foreboding keys and haunting woodwind, underscored by snappy drums.
Roberts tells a fascinating story on the title track, where what sounds like a cello is combined with subtle keys for a gloriously seductive dancefloor burner. Just in case any listener is under the illusion that Roberts is a virtuoso who has suddenly stumbled upon house music, he drops the wigged out acid and clipped drums of “Porcelain”, while his ability to squeeze new sounds and shapes from the long-existing sound is audible on “Dedicated”. Set against the backdrop of lashing rain and rolling thunder, Roberts’ heavy drums rumble in to accompany the kind of melancholic organ solo that only a great like Portable is capable of. That his debut album receives those kinds of comparisons proves that John Roberts is onto something very special.
Dial records is really on a roll these days. After recently releasing a beautiful album by Pawel and their remarkable 10 year anniversary compilation, Dial comes back at us with the long awaited second album from Efdemin, Chicago. Berlin-based Efdemin (aka Phillip Sollmann) has been associated with the Hamburg-founded label since its inception a decade ago. His self-titled debut in 2007 was a stunning affair that resonated deeply with both the house and techno communities. After three years and several singles in between, Efdemin has finally graced us once again with nine new soul-striking tracks that combine the beauty and deepness we have come to associate with Efdemin’s production.
“Cowbell” starts things off with a vocal snippet, warbled organs and slow drum rolls as a prelude to “Shoeshine” which kicks things into higher gear with its tough drums and precise high-hats. All tracks seamlessly flow into each other, a concept many artists tend to overlook when making a full length album. This overall sense of flow makes it pleasure to listen to uninterrupted in order. Instead of finely balancing the line between house and techno, Chicago has more of a jazz-induced feeling to it- which is not to say that it’s light or too refined, but rather more intriguing and textured than your standard fare of straight up deep house or deep techno.
“Night Train,” “Le Grand Voyage” and “Round Here” are three tracks fans familiar with Efdemin’s first album will certainly find their groove in. Another highlight has to be the schaffel, swing beats of “Oh My God” complete with horns and organs interspersed with dripping percussive sounds that perfectly fall into the grooves of the beat. Efdemin has definitely taken a leap forward with Chicago.
Review: Steve Phillips
Hamburg based label Dial Records shot to fame in the second half of the 00s with their high brow approach to deep, minimal house and techno. Founded in 2000, they now celebrate their tenth birthday with a new compilation featuring all their usual suspects, aptly titled 2010.
Set up at the turn of the millennium by Carsten Jost and Peter M, better known as Lawrence, Dial remained largely unnoticed at first. It was only the last five or so years that the imprint famed for its sophisticated and emotionally evocative style of deep and minimal house came to the wider attention. Releases such as Efdemin’s “Bergwein” EP and Pantha Du Prince “This Bliss” have garnered them the most attention leading up to today’s celebratory compilation. But rather than just collecting the finest moments from those ten years, such is Dial’s ethos, they celebrate with entirely new material, including previously unreleased tracks from the likes of Rndm, Pigon and John Roberts.
Opening the compilation in typically refined style, Phantom Ghost embark on a fittingly theatrical ode to the pleasures of the highlife with the twilight keys of “My Secret Europe”. Cultivated 4/4s then take over, starting with John Roberts who brings a classical element into the mix on “Lines”. Efdemin explores sensuously deep tribalism on “Time,” whereas Kassian Troyer uses layers of sub bass on “Tourist” to get into the groove. Isolée makes a rare appearance with some trippier house moments on “Black Lodge” before Pigon take it unfeasibly deep on “Koto”. One of the label’s starlets, Pantha Du Prince, adds one of the highlights of the release with the enveloping masterpiece of “Fountain Drive”.
Dial celebrate their tenth year, and twentieth release, the only way they know how – with a selection of tracks that look unreservedly forward, proving their need to do more than simply sit back on their previous successes. We’re already looking forward to their 2020 compilation.
Review: Tom Jones