J. Rogers: Access
Blipswitch Digital

Access is the debut album by California-based J. Rogers who initially attratced attention at the tender age of seventeen when he placed third in a 2001 mix competition hosted by the now-defunct Muzik Magazine. But rather than extending that into a DJing career, he pursued a degree in music and then re-emerged in 2008 as a formally trained pianist, conductor, and composer. Even so, the ten tracks on Access are anything but academic composition exercises but instead full-bore plunges into techno, house, and dubstep.

Opener “Composite” navigates a subtle transition from low-end rumble and skanky dub-funk pulse to uptempo house banger and back again. Here and elsewhere, Rogers shows a deft hand in marrying propulsive drive and rich textural atmosphere. “Meditation Point” lays the latter on thick and fast when a female speaker's musings are presented alongside a minimal funk-stepping groove. It's worth noting that even though it's one of the most jam-like of the album's ten tunes, its abundance of owly effects and beat change-ups keeps things interesting. One of five album collaborations, “Evil Spirits,” featuring San Francisco dubstep producer Antiserum, spins elements of deep house, jazz swing, and brooding dubstep wobble into a genre-transcending set-piece. A collaboration with Rozanski gives birth to what starts out as a prototypical dubstep wobbler “Ill Killaz” but again Rogers deviates from the bass-heavy template by jumpstarting it with all manner of hyped-up beat trickery. In “Transparentech,” Kenneth Scott helps Rogers take an eight-minute cruise through dub-techno climes, though here too the track shifts into another style zone—slamming micro-house, specifically—during the trip. “Rainy Dazy” pushes Rogers' sound closest to the dub-techno style associated with Deepchord and Echospace (replete with rain drizzle no less) but departs from it in powering the track with a clubby bass pulse and driving beat pattern. A collaboration with bassist Kevin Wall and one of the album's strongest tracks, “Manifesto” bursts with energy in its fusion of jazz, house, and funk, and the pulsating burble of Wall's fretless electric bass playing is merely one of the track's many strengths.

It should be amply clear from the preceding that Access is a wide-ranging and consistently satisfying travelogue. It doesn't re-write the rule-book necessarily but does provide an engaging enough spin on it to warrant one's attention.

June 2010