- Plum is the perfect title for John Roberts' latest album. It's a neat, cute word for neat, cute music, and a fruit that's sweet but not sickly. The plum is also a global fruit—you'd be hard-pressed to trace it back to any one continent—and Plum the album is the moment when the globetrotting Roberts leaves house music behind for a kind of placeless electronica.
Not that Plum is a clean break from the past. The music's sweet pentatonic melodies and Lego-like interlocking patterns were present on his last two albums. But he's never taken them into such a distinctive zone. Each track here is a short but dense collection of scuffed synths, tuned percussion and ear-tickling splats and burbles. Drums, when used at all, alternate with beatless sections stitched together in the manner of Japan's "Ghosts." The structures are hard to pin down—somewhere between the verse-chorus of pop and the linear repetitions of house music. On a track like "Fumes," the arrangement is so rich and strange that you tolerate its meandering progress.
Roberts' new style suggests soundalikes from well beyond the Dial camp: Oneohtrix Point Never's patchwork tracks circa Replica, the zany sampladelia of Co La, Japanese synth music as heard on Fairlights, Mallets and Bamboo. The bashy "Wade" recalls Jam City, while "Glue" and the first half of "Dye Tones" sound like some of the club music he influenced.
In the latter track, the Visionist resemblance only holds for 80 seconds, before giving way to a surprisingly direct melody. Roberts hasn't lost his knack for a good tune—the opposite, actually—and the album's best moments pack a wistful punch. There's energetic opener "Six" and the gorgeous "Plastic Rash," which cuts between euphoric piano passages and gloopy percussion a la Felicita. Closer "Gum," made with LCD Soundsystem's Tyler Pope, might be the poppiest of the lot: there even seems to be some guitar buried in its melancholy weave. The song ends abruptly with a five note melody, as if Roberts is sealing the album with a cute little bow. It's a sweet moment, but not a sickly one.
05. Dye Tones
07. Plastic Rash