‘90s drum and bass legend rises from four-year slumber with new and up-to-date sounds: surely a recipe for disaster there. But as it is for Photek and his storied production legacy, it would be fairer to embrace his resurrection with the forewarning that ‘results may vary’.
Born in the UK as one Rupert Parkes, Photek earned his stripes by practically remoulding the d’n’b genre from within: his most famous records are masterful exercises in percussion programming, beats gracefully sliced and broken up against the elegant backdrop of his jazz and Oriental obsessions. Along the way, his magic fingers have dipped themselves into a good many pies: classic house with Robert Owens, techno for Kirk Degiorgio’s ART label, as well as movie work including The Animatrix soundtrack and remixes for Tron: Legacy and Pirates of the Caribbean (!)
These forays off the beaten path, while susceptible at times, would never see Photek riding atop any bandwagons... till now. Recent interviews saw the man speak of his latest output as attempting to invent a new genre of his own. Now, at the risk of being lynched by his legions of devotees, I’ll tell you what this genre is - it’s called ‘crossover’ - and here’s why.
His first release this 2011 - the Avalanche EP - will have, by now, eased its way into the party mixes and live sets of dubstep, electro-house, tech-house and trance DJs everywhere. It’s not just the matter of a shared BPM: whether the 4/4 dance-pop sensibilities of ‘This City’ or outer-space runway synths of Daft Punk-influenced ‘Slowburn’, as mentioned, these are tracks that coalesce all the essential elements of a modern-day hipster rave. Photek himself describes the latter track with “Balearic, French, Rock, Depeche Mode, Chemical Brothers” all in the same breath... no kidding there.
AVALANCHE EP - Out Now! by Photek .
The follow-up Aviator EP keeps with the formula, its three festival ‘anthems’ certain to steer dancers into sky-high euphoria. Again, jocks from all the above-mentioned genres will find themselves in good hands launching the urgent breaks assault of ‘Totem’ or ‘Cecconi’’s thick, heavy kick-drums. Meanwhile, main tent dibs belong to ‘Sleepwalking’, which serves up an arena-sized cheese platter of angsty female vocals, crooning her way to lighters and iPhones held aloft. Next up, 98.7fm airplay... Luckily, Falty DL saves the day with his more tasteful deep house version, all pads and chugging rhythms locking the listener into a hypnotic state - the good sort.
AVIATOR EP :: Purchase vinyl & download at http://photek.fm by Photek
If you’re wondering whether I’m about to insinuate that the newer breed of ‘bass’ music producers are doing a better job than Photek here, then you’re on the right track - but it’s his latest release, the Closer EP, that really lays things to rest. Taking a breather from pressing the previous two records on his own Productions label, Photek debuts on Bristol’s hub of dub, Tectonic, and proceeds to spawn its most mainstream offering ever. But wait, flip over and it’s none other than label head Pinch himself to the remix rescue (of his own rep). The warm, steppin’ melody and soulful lyrics of the original remain intact, only now spiked with steamrolling ominousness courtesy of Pinch’s low-end garage/jungle sonic arsenal.
CLOSER :: Tectonic Recordings by Photek
So much hate going on here, so I’ll give credit where its due: across the three singles, Photek’s production is as pristine as ever, and he’s given us extremely useful tunes with dancefloor fullness and grandiosity to them. It most certainly isn’t wrong of him to aim in that direction - and admirably so, without resorting to the heavy metal-esque mid-range shredding of commercial brostep. But this is Photek we’re looking at. Expect to feel the same if you’re familiar with his earlier work in all its distinctive and ingenious glory. Photek, please come back...
02. This City
04. 101 (Boddika’s Drum Machine Mix)
03. Sleepwalking (feat. Linche)
04. Sleepwalking (feat. Linche) (FaltyDL Remix)
02. Closer (Pinch Remix)