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John Roberts: Paper Frames (Dial)

House producer John Roberts has always been slightly left of center, but there’s something quite inviting about his warm, leftfield house music that makes it feel easy and familiar. Paper Frames is his latest outing for the always-reliable Dial imprint, an EP consisting of 2 longer cuts and 2 shorter interludes. “Untitled II” and “Untitled IV” are brief prepared piano tracks that help set the tone for the other tracks that respectively proceed. The title cut is my favorite here, with a layered combination of mallet sounds, string harmonics and staggered acoustic drum samples that sound much closer to Four Tet’s repertoire than the majority of Dial acts. “Crushing Shells,” on the other hand, splits the difference, with a twinkly sound that is classic Dial over a more expected four-to-the-floor rhythm section that still manages to surprise with periodic spinbacks that throw the sound off kilter for a beat or two at a time. It’s a cool evolution to Roberts’ sound, and I wonder if this is where he’s heading for a new full-length. If so, we all have much to look forward to — it’s gorgeous and exciting to hear him exploring sounds even more on the fringe of dance music.

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