To make a crude generalisation, there are two types of great producer: the ones who boldly tread new ground and the ones who make familiar music very well. British producer Nebraska, who recently returned from a five-year hiatus with a vengeance, sits firmly in the latter camp. His soulful deep house grooves aren’t revelatory, but – almost without exception – they’re extraordinarily good.
A lot of the success of Nebraska’s music comes from his lightness of touch, the delicacy with which he applies his samples. These subtle qualities were abundantly clear on his Stand Your Ground EP, out last year on Mister Saturday Night. Judging by that 12” and this one, his best material seems linked to the freewheeling New York label.
Third cut Done My Best is the straightest track here, a jolly slice of filter disco that appeals most directly to the club. Over a busy scuttle of claps and hand percussion a throaty bassline rises along with a twinkling Rhodes riff. They’re familiar elements but arranged with a particular maturity – hear how the strings rise subtly through the mix, or how the bass frequently disappears to tease the tension higher.
When Nebraska steps away from the peak-time slot, his productions are even more rewarding. Title track What You’ve Done To Me is possibly his finest production to date, setting up a slow, deliberate groove with a bassline that struts into earshot. It takes three minutes for the hook to enter, a tender seizure of funk synths, drawing a bittersweet vocal from the depths of the mix.
The EP’s middle track sees Nebraska exploring deeper terrain. SOS Dub is strange, a dubby rhythm set under a rippling synth whose timbre echoes calypso but with a pronounced melancholy edge. In today’s deluge of soulful house records it’s not easy to stand out, but Nebraska does it with style.