- John Roberts has been dismantling the sweet deep house sound of his early releases for a while, and the process picked up pace when he launched Brunette Editions. The label's first release, 2015's Orah EP, was still a slantwise kind of house music. 2016's Plum album pulled Roberts' sweet melodies into more fragmented shapes. On Spill, "a series of songs written and destroyed," it seems that Roberts is done scratching at the facade of his style and is now hammering away at the base structure.
The title track is a wild medley of twisted metal and splintered wood. The bouncing six-note melody at the opening is a red herring. Most of the track ignores it, instead flicking between squelching synth interference, tense percussion runs and glowering power chords. Recordings of the double bassist Maxwell Sterling and the trumpeter Peter Evans work as "probiotics," accelerating the track's bacterial growth. The whole thing is disorientating at first, but on closer listen the track's recurring motifs and rationed drama reveal the meticulousness Roberts has always brought to his music.
"Fluid" is a bitesize reprise of the same method. Evans' trumpet is key this time, sketching a humid jungle of rich sustained notes and somersaulting melody, while the odd distorted drone calls back to the throbbing mania of "Spill." "Wrecked" is a return to firmer ground, namely gorgeous melodies played on pert synths and rumpled e-piano. The track's simple emotional punch is stronger in such strange company. It's the crowning moment of the most adventurous Brunette release yet, though perhaps not the most inviting.