Johan Brandes' most recent EP for Gerd's 4Lux Black imprint, American Studies, was something of a slow-burning deep house delight. While this EP hasn't quite got the same instant impact, it may have greater longevity. Certainly, there's something distinctly classic about the drifting, emotion-rich deepness on offer here. Tracks like "St Johns" - with its spoken word samples and glassy-eyed glaze - and "Landing Lights" are perfectly pitched, offering both head-nodding grooves and heart-stopping musicality. "Gloomy Stacks", meanwhile, sounds like a lost track from the glory days of Naked Music. Such a soft-focus approach to deep house rarely works, but Landing Lights is a treat.
There are numerous approaches to deep house around, but few are quite as spellbinding as that offered by Gerd's 4 Lux Black label. Since setting up a couple of years back, the Dutch label has quietly set its stall out as a 'must check' imprint for those who like their music deep, subtle and oozing with unfussy emotion. So far, the label's clear stand out release has to be Erdbeerschnitzel's brilliant Suave EP, but this new three-tracker from label stalwart Johan Brandes - aka Native Rush - pushes it mighty close. It's a concept EP of sorts, with the 'American Studies' title referring to the various spoken word and vocal samples - all from vintage US sources - that litter the release. These are invariably well chosen and add an extra dimension - a cinematic sweep, perhaps - to Brandes deep and meaningful compositions. This is perhaps most obvious on "Cigarbox", which slowly bobs and weaves for eight timeless minutes. The grooves are wearily sub-aquatic, the melodies chilly and otherworldly. When the poetic, extended vocal sample kicks in, it adds another dimension to an already impressive composition. Then there's "My Obsession", a rolling, low-end heavy groove that pits well-chosen spoken word samples ("America, I refuse to give up my obsession") against relentless organ riffs, bowel-bothering bass and a classic US house finish. It's a fittingly American-centric ending to an EP that delights and entertains in equal measure.