1996 – when the label ‘deep house’ pretty much did what it said on the tin: mellow, organic house music that tastefully borrowed soul or jazz elements that was distinguishable from more dancefloor oriented variations of the genre. Quite distinct from the ‘future house’ and ‘tropical house’ trends that the term is now also sometimes used to refer to.
Hands down, ‘These Branching Moments’ is a paragon of this original deep house style. Lush, warm and blissful, the album’s offerings are the product of the vision of Chris Brann, a revered producer also known for his work recording as Wamdue Project and P’Taah. Even if you’re not an aficionado of house music, you’ll probably have heard his unexpected 1997 chart hit ‘King Of My Castle’ at some point in time.
‘Intro’ kicks things off smoothly, pivoting on an ice-cool riff from Jaco Pastorius’ ‘Portrait Of Tracy.’ It’s got an effortless, lounge vibe with its sombre violins and twinkling pianos soaring in the background. Totalling just over two minutes in length, it finishes all too soon, a teaser to whet our appetite.
‘Whirlwind’ has a fantastic atmospheric opening, the sounds of waves gently crashing and a languid, five note bassline inviting the listener in before that memorable, twirling synth meanders through your ears, swirling you along with the track’s momentum. It really is a track to bask in: divine pads, delicate percussion and that ‘whirlwind of emotions’ vocal all merging and blending to form an intricate, soothing slice of deep house goodness.
‘Alasque’ is another gem, a clever track that begins with a simple, repetitive chord. Soon, a plush guitar riff and joyous, searching synth enter, tempting the listener into an ecstatic, carefree mindstate. Another especially pleasing detail is how the organ notes play off that recurring chord later on in the tune.
What an absolute belter ‘Optimistique’ is! You know a track means business when it bumps that hard from the off. There’s a jazzy organ and a sexy bassline that slinks along… even the handclaps just sound so tight. And then the pièce de resistance – those heavenly chord stabs that floor you halfway through. Hands in the air magic. An outstanding track that ranks as one my all-time favourite house tunes.
The album’s eponymous track turns the tempo down a few notches. This one is a subtly programmed medley of burbling synths. The sound here is dense and rich, creating a warm, welcoming vibe to immerse yourself in.
‘Reflection’ packs more delightful synth noodlings sprinkled atop an original, groovy bassline. This track is remarkable for the incredible piano work – there’s about five or six individual melodies that loop at various intervals, imparting the tune with an elegant, entrancing texture.
Penultimate track ‘Time We Will Never Share’ is another slice laden with charismatic, effervescent keyboard harmonies, this time astride a more robust bass with crisp hi-hats. Pure ear candy if you allow your antennas the time to tune in.
Closer ‘Full Metal Emotion’ lays down some refreshing congos and reaching synths before an enigmatic flute sends the track in a more mysterious direction. There’s another peach of a bassline on this as well, rolling and undulating like waves on a placid ocean.
Enticing, evocative and effortless, Chris Brann has crafted a masterly album here, brimming with his own characteristic ‘Wamdue’ warmth and soul. And while in the pantheon of classic deep house LPs, ‘These Branching Moments’ may not have as big a shrine as more acclaimed releases – Moodymann’s ‘Silentintroduction’ or Theo Parrish’s ‘First Floor’ we’ll say – nevertheless, it’s not without its own wealth of tributes laid out before it by those in the know. ‘A legend of the deep’ is how one YouTuber describes Chris Brann. That, undoubtedly, he is.