Expat Scot Josh John’s debut EP with Substation Recordings reflects the humble, inauspicious gentleman at its helm. The title track lands broad and familiar, house music for house lovers. Skittering, teasing clicks and hats pull us onward into a four-on-the-floor with a healthy bass growl. As the tune folds out, gentle pads and a rolling arpeggio drive “House Is For Lovers” forward like a steam engine, but it never loses its hints of warmth and unity.
“Beat” is the double down. A touch less exultant, a hint more menacing, the tune’s atonal rise and fall of synth build a shadow before darker resolution. The deeper layer of “Beat” shows Josh John’s next level - tiny splashes and drones fill out every edge of this aural landscape. Its chromatic layers blend in a way totally peculiar to him, and in contrast to the warmth and openness of the EP’s opener, this moody tinge is a pleasant left turn.
“Emotion Dub” arrives at a true variant of the spirit of house. Polyrhythmic percussion lands and shutters like a relaxed Caribbean cousin, all watery and golden brown. The vocal snippets halfway through the tune keep us strong, “so strong.” Rare indeed is the perfect blend of laid back vibes and onward march, but this tune straddles the line most perfectly.
The EP’s trek from John’s native Scotland to the warm and welcoming Alberta scene touches about as many sonic corners as a three track house release can touch. At times militaristic, it is also soft and warm. Its reassuring acceptance of the best of house music conventions is balanced by steady, questioning exploration of the limits of electronic sound.