We first encountered Jay Shepheard back in 2007, when the Berlin-based producer's Pipes N Sneakers on Compost Black Label was one of the first bridgeheads in the deep house resurgence, which at the time was just starting to shake minimal techno's stranglehold on clubland. But while his follow-up releases on labels like Buzzin' Fly, Electric Minds and his own Retrofit might have seemed like part of the reaction against cold mechanistic beats, they also suggested he'd absorbed something from minimal's waste-not-want-not attitude, as well as the groove of the '90s house he'd more likely been mining for inspiration. Meticulously produced, there was barely a gram of flab to be found—melodies were stripped-back, vocals and stabs came largely in small, cut-up samples, and the bare 4/4 rhythms bumped along at a tempo much more suited to slinking than stomping.
Still, some of Shepheard's previous output sounds positively gabber compared to his debut album, where, rather than picking up the pace, he drops it another notch. If 12-inches like 2011's Fuzzy Border were perfect for the warm-up slot or a dawdling 4 AM dance floor, most of Home and Garden seems more suited to the sofa at an afterparty. True, there's a sexy wriggle in the basslines from the off on "Forty Eight Stacy," and "Be Dangerous" has the same slow-burning groove as early Mark E productions. It's music that floats lazily like dawn through the windows, subtle and subdued for the most part, though there are still echoes of the club in the shuffling beats of "Climbing Faces." "Two Much Love" sounds like a close cousin of Orbital's "Halcyon On + On"—presumably one of Shepheard's influences given that he's previously re-edited the Hartnoll brothers' "Monday." But even at its most brisk—"Type 1A"—Home and Garden barely breaks a sweat.
Of course, sweat was a crucial ingredient in disco—one of Shepheard's other musical touchstones. This time there's no flamboyance and very little fever in Shepheard's sound. Home and Garden is an impeccably cool and smooth afterhours trip, but it could possibly also do with a little more heat.