Since his emergence last year, Gerry Read has consistently lurked on the fringes of house music acceptability. His trademark production style is poised between reverence to house's atavistic roots—the thump and crackle of Chicago at its rawest—and a committed deviance from its norms. His releases, predominantly for Ramp sub-label Fourth Wave, seem perfectly suited to the functional 12-inch format—and yet their murky sonics and ramshackle construction means that only the bravest of club DJs would deploy them. An EP for Dutch institution Delsin earlier this year could be read as a seal of legitimacy; but still, it's difficult to know where to place Gerry Read—on the outside looking in, or on the inside determinedly prodding at the boundaries.
Does Jummy, the young St. Albans-based producer's debut LP, help to resolve this nagging duality? Not at all—and nor should it. Sure, the long-player format allows Read to flex his exploratory muscles a little, resulting in a gorgeously trippy intro and outro, the former a claggy dub techno breakdown gone rogue, the latter a borderline abrasive psychedelic beat-sketch. Elsewhere, though, this is mostly a collection of dance tracks that look to the floor for their cues but also keep it at arm's length: meaty kicks in dialogue with unsteady sheets of hi-hats; crusty soul samples weaving around Read's own home-brewed sounds; whistling filter sweeps labouring under a hardened crust of tape hiss and background hum.
Ambiguity lies at the heart of this music. Read has a knack for locating the mid-point between, on the one hand, the loose-limbed declamatory vibe that house has always drawn from gospel, and on the other, awkward sample-collage of the sort that unsettles rather than stimulates. The results are puzzling as often as they are pleasing—no bad thing, but you get the sense that Read doesn't always take a sufficiently firm hand with his creations. "Let's Make It Deeper," a typical example, opens in fine fettle but gradually loses its way, hemorrhaging momentum in the process.
Still, when he's on form, Read can pull off both funky and bizarre with an aplomb that belies his short career. "Purple Fire" is compulsively bumpy deep house with the slightest tang of danger. "Idiot" is a blissful, gelatinous mass of soft-edged samples. Both are excellent. If there's one major criticism of this record it's that its excessive length—13 tracks totalling 58 minutes—means that standout tracks can be missed through sheer volume of material. That aside, Jummy's finest moments are joyous, infectious and unsettling in equal measure. In short, everything that house music ought to be.