In the time since his 2010 breakthrough LP, Glass Eights, John Roberts has contributed remixes to records by the likes of Blondes, Agoria, and George FitzGerald, among others. Although these tracks didn’t receive anywhere near the amount of press his album did, they showed a marked shift in his style. His previously fluid approach was deconstructed into clunking, often abrasive arrangements, making listeners work for an emotional payoff that used to come so readily, but also heightening that payoff in the process. In the scope of those remixes, Roberts’ Paper Frames EP is a logical move, applying that abstraction to his own preference for deeper house and modern classical motifs.
Roberts arranges the EP as a suite, flanking the title track with two short untitled pieces. “II,” the first, moves in breaths of kalimba, cello, and piano, serving as an introduction to the record’s key instruments as well as its pace. On “Paper Frames” he arranges these elements into kind of interrupted house — they’re loosely clustered around a stop-start bass drum and hi-hats that wander about more than keep time. “IV” presents a stark bit of reverberating piano before the closing “Crushing Shells”, which audibly bridges Glass Eights and Roberts’ newer material. It’s remarkable in the way Roberts pairs the pace of the track — a trudging, subby thud, cut with reverses — with the solemn melodies on top, as the rhythm intuitively bends and pauses to the tune of his whims. If his album distinguished his voice, Paper Frames shows him taking it into new realms without compromise.