John Beltran

By Andy Rantzen

John Beltran, the press release assures us, leads a ‘quiet but athletic life’. I found myself speculating on what this might mean. A secluded cottage in Cornwall fitted out with a gymnasium? Quiet, secluded sprints along country lanes? I remember a compilation called 313 or something similar from the early 90’s, where Beltran figured either under his own name or as Placid Angles. His minimal electronic house sound was suffused with a generous, airy warmth assisted by string chords that sounded like a jet cruising through an icy morning sky, trailing chilly vapour skeins, the sun coming up over the horizon.

Whereas in the early days, the jazz, Latin and funk influences were implied, and the sense of forcing a personal vision out of minimal equipment was palpable, now those influences are more explicit – even sampled. This reminds me of similar progressions in the music of Nightmares on Wax and Kirk DeGiorgio. Is it such a good thing to doff your lid to the past like this, so self-consciously? To manifest overtly what was already manifesting unconsciously? I don’t really know. Something is gained, something lost. The subtle desperation that is at the very heart of classic house music is still present in Beltran’s new album, as it was in his earlier material. There is also an element of styling which is merely chic. No matter, the warmth of feeling of the man behind this music positively leaps out of the speakers, and that’s enough.
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