Published Apr 10, 2018Long gone are the days of John Roberts on Dial Records. Over the course of his career, the artist has taken the unique aspects of his approach to electronic music, and subsequently expanded, elaborated, and diced up his ideas into more adventurous territory. Much of this progression has occurred on Roberts' own Brunette Editions, a label that he describes as an "abstract outlet for music, printed matter, recordings and books."
On Spill, we are presented with a musical hodgepodge that he describes as "self-cannibalized." Motifs rarely permeate for any discernible length, and ideas are as fleeting as they are ever present. In terms of procedure, "Wrecked" (as ironic as it may be) is the easiest to follow. Roberts' construction centres around a synthetic melodic theme, that is later embellished with nostalgia in the form of piano keys and what sounds like a distorted organ. Peter Evans' resampled trumpet improvisations on "Fluid" are layered upon themselves, and meshed with Zimmer-esque synth patches for the EP's closer.
Both efforts pale in comparison to "Spill"; the title track serves as a reminder of Roberts' technical prowess, and parades his ideas resplendently. Xylophone yokes with Maxwell Sterling's double bass, and an array of electro-inspired synthesizers to yield innovation. Frantic hand percussion and shrieking synthesizers result in polyrhythmic crescendo. As a result, this leaves the aforementioned two compositions a tad underwhelming.
Compared to his previous Brunette Editions LP, Plum, Spill is not quite as focused or accessible (if such a descriptor is appropriate). John Roberts has long been a purveyor of high quality control, and in the end, it shows. If not for the excellent opening track that makes up more than half of the EPs runtime, this might be a hard sell. Ultimately, the artist delivers a sharp, albeit periodically erratic, slice of modern electronica. (Brunette Editions)