James Pepper opts for jazzy, slick house on his ‘Black City’ EP
The last two years for Sydney producer JAMES PEPPER have been filled with gigs, gigs and more gigs. Along the way, he’s supported the likes of Optimo, Job Jobse, Gerd Janson, Demuja and more. Aside from spinning tunes in some of the most exciting spaces in Sydney, he’s an avid producer too. Having released sounds on local labels like Gateway Music and Of Leisure, he’s back with a stellar four-tracker out on Barcelona-Berlin based label Neovinyl Recordings.
Titled Black City, the EP features three slick house cuts from Pepper, as well as a remix from Vancouver’s Jesse Bru to round out the release.
Kicking off with ‘It’s Okay’, the deep house cut throws us straight in with a heavy kick, crisp hats and what appears to be panned, distorted vocals. There’s a simple horn motif that comes whispering in, but it’s the percussion that takes the lead on this one. The track sets up the EP beautifully, giving us something that has a place both on dancefloors and in your headphones.
Track two is the title track, ‘Black City’, taking us further into the underground. Those crisp hats again dominate the percussive element, something Pepper is great at pinpointing. He’s paired a funky bassline with off-kilter piano chords, setting up the recipe for the perfect slice of house. As the track progresses, a female vocal is bought in as an instrumental rather than something more melodic, a trumpet croons solitarily somewhere in the backdrop and as we get closer to the climax, the percussive palette intensifies until the release.
‘I Am Riccardo’ is track three, and the last of Pepper‘s originals. It’s again a deeper cut, with the percussive elements coming in on the lower end of the pitch spectrum. It’s the jazziest cut on the record, pairing a dull key with live-esque percussion. It’s a track of balance, never using too many sounds, but never once feeling empty.
And finally, we’re left with Jesse Bru‘s take on ‘I Am Riccardo’. Putting more emphasis on the kick and how the space in the track has been used, Bru‘s take is less jazzy and more about the drive and how hard he can make the percussion work. It’s the perfect way to round out the EP and does well in complementing the sounds and ideas explored by Pepper throughout the EP.
Pepper‘s Black City EP is essential listening. The more you delve into it, the more is revealed to you. Give this one a spin through your headphones, or loud on your speakers. Either way, it’ll sound great. Rather than putting the focus on making the record complexly simple, Pepper‘s emerged with a body of work that feels simply complex.
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Words by CAITLIN MEDCALF