House music's greatest strength may be its ability to soak up whatever it comes in contact with. Feeling Ipanema? Add a salsa shimmy to the patented one-two punch. Hankering to go back to Africa? Some hand drums and a kalimba will up the pluck. With Afro-Latin overtones beaten into the ground, however, house producers have been casting about for other idioms suited for house's boompty riddims.
Enter Brooks, Mantis Recordings' young 20-something wunderkind, who's fused new wave's glossy groove with a nifty disco twirl before smoothing the whole thing down like a balsa racecar model, streamlined and beautifully efficient. A student of Matthew Herbert, the Londoner has learned from his teacher's mashed sample chug and in fact the swoonworthy "Colour Me Bad" is co-written and sung by Herbert's collaborator Dani Siciliano but Brooks's tunes are cleaner and more spacious. Handclaps slap like beavertails on a mountain lake, echoing from here to there. Raygun blasts ring out like jaybirds. It's a curiously pastoral take on plasticity, pairing dulled kickdrums with acoustic guitar, taking heartfelt vocals and fracturing them in a pixel-pebbled kaleidoscope. "Dripping in Gold" is a G-funk disco jam as slinky as anything Metro Area's concocted, while "I Don't Usually Do This But..." pops arpeggios like E-40 pops collars, over a shuffle as off-kilter as Recloose's broken soul. And the last three tracks make for a strange, shadowy epic of twisted beats and bass clarinet.
Not your typical house longplayer, but that's Brooks for you. No wonder, perhaps, that the record has been almost totally ignored by a Stateside press: it's too house to be electroclash, too catchy to be electronica. Confidently ambivalent, You, Me & Us is a pop record that's not afraid to be dark, a seducer that's not afraid to have doubts. And while it occasionally acts as stylistic sponge, soaking up disco, microhouse, and R&B, ultimately it gives it all back in the form of a full-body rubdown.