There’s something so luxurious about the music of Ali Gibbs. Combining the tender melodies of the Dial roster with the pomp and circumstance of classic Pépé Bradock, Gibbs bestows upon peaktime a kind of grandeur one doesn’t usually associate with a blob of sweaty, drugged up revelers — less Fabric Room 1, more Brooks Brothers catalog. You’d think Nebraska, Gibbs’ longtime alias, was Gatbsy’s summer place in Ibiza (“I absolutely must introduce you to Sven Väth, old sport”) and not America’s 37th state, a rectangle in the Midwest primarily known for cows and the sort of flat accent coveted by telemarketing firms. Last year’s A Weekend On My Own EP for Rush Hour — sumptuous and airy as good wedding cake, funky as all get-out — felt like the crowning achievement of Nebraska’s intriguingly short discography; it’s hard to imagine a better A-side one-two punch on any record going for less than three figures on Discogs than “Soho Grand” and “A Weekend On My Own.” Returning to Rush Hour for his latest, the Four For Four EP, Gibbs absolutely makes good on the collection’s title. In other words, it’s about as finely wrought a dance music record as they’re making these days.
Nebraska wins across all sides, but it must be said that he’s operating at two distinct levels of brilliance. The record’s first and last tracks, “This Is The Way” and “Arrondissement,” would be the highlights of practically any other release. Part of why I love Nebraska is Gibbs’ flair for the unexpected, and “This Is The Way,” moving from low-key deep disco to balls-out disco explosion, is a case study in dance music drama. “Arrondissement,” fast-paced and sassy, hits all the right notes. But what’s sandwiched between these two cuts is on another level entirely. Nebraska is often at his heaviest when on paper it should be at his lightest, and that’s absolutely the case on these middle cuts. On “Ras El Hanout,” one lone, crackly violin holds together a heavy drum riff and spongy Moodymann pads that are constantly on the verge of flying off the platter. “Bar Story,” the EP’s best and most thumping inclusion, sounds ready to boil over, making a mess of your kitchen in snares, Rhodes, and superbly subtle bass hits. Heavy and shimmering, Four For Four sounds like it should cost at least as much as a Mercedes; until it inevitably goes out of print, this slice of platinum house will run you about what you’re used to paying for a 12″. Pure class.