Listening to the debut album by US producer John Roberts, it’s hard to believe that he is still in his 20s. Usually, it’s the case that such accomplished, detailed works are the result of years spent locked away in the studio, but in this instance, Roberts seems to have arrived out of nowhere with a mature palette. It’s audible from the get-go on opening track “Lesser”, where the sound of a hissing record proves the introduction for plaintive piano keys and raw, dubby beats. A similar musical approach prevails on “Ever or Not”, where a classical piano dominates a gentle house groove and with “Pruned”, a wide-eyed composition populated by rich yet foreboding keys and haunting woodwind, underscored by snappy drums.
Roberts tells a fascinating story on the title track, where what sounds like a cello is combined with subtle keys for a gloriously seductive dancefloor burner. Just in case any listener is under the illusion that Roberts is a virtuoso who has suddenly stumbled upon house music, he drops the wigged out acid and clipped drums of “Porcelain”, while his ability to squeeze new sounds and shapes from the long-existing sound is audible on “Dedicated”. Set against the backdrop of lashing rain and rolling thunder, Roberts’ heavy drums rumble in to accompany the kind of melancholic organ solo that only a great like Portable is capable of. That his debut album receives those kinds of comparisons proves that John Roberts is onto something very special.