According to Ian Hunter, 'Cleveland Rocks.' Indeed it does play host to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, its rust-belt Mid-Western charm playing right into the makings of a proper rock and roll city. It also happens to be the hometown of one of the most exciting new producers in house music. John Roberts was the first American signed to the Hamburg-based Dial Records in 2008, and has released three 12” (one on Dial’s vinyl-only imprint Laid) to much acclaim. Roberts has returned with Glass Eights, a full-length following right in the footsteps of Dial’s last LP release, Efdemin’s Chicago.
Initially, it never seems that Roberts is creating songs with the dancefloor in mind (although he may state otherwise). However, slowly the tracks reveal themselves and Glass Eights is full of beautiful dance-floor fodder. Navy Blue builds from a loop played in reverse into simply blissful deep house featuring an acoustic bass-line and piano that give the track a cinematic feel, while it continues to drive. Ever or Not continues the trend, as its driving percussion is reminiscent of Shed, and Roberts’ accoutrements of piano continue to be showcased here and throughout the album. Porcelain isn’t as fragile as it sounds, as the classic 303 makes an appearance here, and what for a second seems out of place seemingly grows right into the track, making its deep-acid sound one of the most intriguing listens here.
Glass Eights also takes its time to scale down from the driving house tracks. Interlude (Telephone) is a three minutes of sampled chimes, and of course piano, before rolling into a woodwind infused stomp of fat percussion. Went could probably fit onto a Phillip Glass album, as the piano glistens over an acoustic bass and a single snare. Both tracks fit perfectly within the album order, giving the listener some time to breathe before returning to a more upbeat sound.
However, its Roberts brand of deep, classic house that is truly to be showcased here. The Chicago-influenced Dedicated sends quick hi-hats and an 808 beat strolling into some darker melodies that would play masterfully to a crowded, unlit old warehouse on the outskirts of the Midwestern city Roberts should have been born in. August is a lighter affair, a fast paced house jam bolstered by a warbling synth stab which is broken down about halfway through the track. The albums title track closes the work in style, with one of the harder pounding kicks on the album, while piano and woodwind dance high above it. The heavy influence of classical house shines through here, revealing each of the key ingredients that really standout in almost every track. The result is a simply brilliant production, where Roberts’ influences creating a fascinating listen, but can also drive the dance-floor. Cleveland rocks? Yeah, probably. But Cleveland is also deep. Real deep.
Tracklist: John Roberts - Glass Eights
02. Navy Blue
03. Ever Or Not
05. Interlude (Telephone)
10. Glass Eights