Jay Shepheard: Home & Garden

Having issued a steady stream of singles, twelve-inch discs, and remixes since 2007, Jay Shepheard now cobbles together eleven slinky house jams for his debut album on his own Retrofit imprint (established in 2010). To be appreciated, the release needs to be taken on its own terms, with Shepheard's goal appearing to be nothing more than to provide a solid and well-crafted fifty minutes of listening pleasure. On such humble grounds, Home & Garden succeeds, with each track an unfussy affair that gets to the point with admirable dispatch. That's never more clear than when “Zippin'” locks into its '70s-styled funk groove in record time and in so doing clears a path for jazzy piano and spidery guitar riffs to work their magic.

Establishing the album's tone at the outset, “Forty Eight Stacy” presents a laid-back vibe in a smooth flow of beat swing and instrumental colour that sees vocal murmurs and gauzy keyboard riffs drifting into view. Elements of deep house and disco come together in Shepheard's tracks, with the producer sometimes pilfering the past for old-school sounds (‘80s-styled electronic drum fills in “Orbis Tertius” and “Up Denali”) and at other times opting for a more contemporary feel (the vocal-laced shimmer slinking through “Be Dangerous”). The synthetic radiance Shepheard works into “Climbing Faces” and the gorgeous closer “Two Much Love” suggests some degree of kinship between him and a similarly melodic producer such as Prins Thomas. The latter's so-called space disco sound gets another workout in “Signs” when hyperactive synth squiggles appear alongside Shepheard's soft vocalizing.

Claps and deep house vocal accents are plentiful, and the grooves are midtempo and rich with bass; there's a good amount of variety on display, too, as Shepheard distinguishes one track from another by working distinctive touches into each one, whether it be a near-subliminal vocal in “Here Comes” (“Here comes the sun,” naturally) or by animating “Up Denali” with a vamping, Latin-styled groove. It's no game-changer, but one presumes that the otherwise satisfying Home & Garden doesn't count that as one of its aims.

February 2013