John Roberts, Hesitate


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“Hesitate” is in the running for the most ironic title of the year. As John Roberts’ debut on the frequently great label Dial, the single begins with a hiccup of a listless groove that quickly fades as a facile tribute to the title — there are few actual hesitations on “Hesitate.” Roberts can afford to lean heavily on the merits of his music, offering a low-key biography that reads like a friendly cliché (e.g. another producer from New York turned Berlin) and interviews that do little to either justify or dispel how assured his debut sounds. Although technically Roberts traffics in the sounds of house -– minor-chord stabs, warm smudges of bass, splatters of hand claps –- he never seems fixated on the feeling, the groove. Instead, “Hesitate” bursts with little moments of rearrangement, where changes aren’t dramatic but manage to re-orient the flow of the track under your nose.

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A-side “Hesitate” might be the best introduction for Roberts, showing off his ability to juggle a variety of sounds. Sometimes the track feels like a thicket with little melodies weaving throughout, etching out an abundant groove. What comes across as dense on first listen can be picked apart in nice details –- for instance, a call and response between a full-bodied bass drum and its phantom limbs. But it never feels cluttered; Roberts knows when to pivot the track when it veers on becoming overwhelming. “Promises” follows a different track, placing a parade of askew instruments -– a seething piano, rawhide bullwhip, sizzle — against the house blueprint. Coming across a little like Horror, Inc., “Promises” might pilfer a couple tricks from Marc Leclair, but also introduces bizarro Gershwin piano lines and a full head of steam into the mix. “Sweat Me” rounds out the single with one long trickle of the piano and a lulling down-tempo send-off. With “Hesitate,” John Roberts covers no small ground and reveals one of the most stylistically cohesive debuts of the year.

dunford  on October 10, 2008 at 10:16 AM

i have been rocking this track regularly from LWE since wednesday night. just added the vinyl to my “get after your paycheck” list at phonica. thanks for the upload.

the way the bass replies to those keyboard pokes is so fucking rad.

hutlock  on October 10, 2008 at 2:04 PM

I really, really like this record. I think that intro is the best part, or rather the way he folds into the track from there.

I’ll be right behind you at Phonica, dunford! (well, online anyway…)

AndrEY  on October 13, 2008 at 6:32 AM

Blows my mind away

Shawn Khan  on October 19, 2008 at 3:03 PM

I just want to play this all day


Little White Earbuds » Little White Earbuds October Charts  on November 6, 2008 at 9:12 PM

[…] (buy) 07. Melchior Productions, “Who Can Find Me (I Can’t)” [Cadenza] (buy) 08. John Roberts, “Hesitate” [Dial] (buy) 09. DJ Bone, “One More Tune” [Subject Detroit] (buy) 10. Luke Hess, […]

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