Sunday, May 20, 2012

This is one of the best new-release releases I've heard of recent times. The band known as Portishead came and went without me really noticing. I was aware of their existence, friends of mine even liked them quite a bit, but it was never my "scene". That may be obvious to you. The project known as DROKK consists of Portishead's Geoff Barrow - someone who has etched out a semi-lucrative side career as label owner/operator for Invada (who released this) and man of various esoteric musical pursuits - and soundtrack composer, Ben Salisbury (his CV is long and impressive). So the story goes... they were originally commissioned to write a soundtrack together for a proposed movie, but when that fell apart, and when they discovered each other's mutual love of Judge Dredd comics, they kept the project going and recorded this imaginary soundtrack, Music Inspired By Mega-City One. I was actually a big-time devourer of Judge Dredd comics when I was 13/14, although any familiarity with or even knowledge of what Dredd and Mega-City One may be (take a wild guess: a dystopian future) is irrelevant to the enjoyment of this record. I raved about the American duo Zombi in this blog a couple of years back, a drums/bass/synth combo who shamelessly mine a faux-soundtrack bent along the lines of Goblin/John Carpenter/Vangelis, one albeit spruced up w/ various proggy maneuvres and odes to the classic Eurotrash sounds of Georgio Moroder et al, and Drokk is somewhere in the same ballpark... but in another sense, the music of Drokk is much more purely soundtrack-oriented. Since this is a soundtrack for a picture which doesn't even exist, that last statement doesn't actually make any sense at all, but the music of Drokk is so scenic and so visual and so perfectly executed as a piece of soundtrack music, that you may well understand what I'm getting at. Barrow & Salisbury used only ancient synths, beatboxes and keyboards to achieve this, as well as a few tracks which utilised "time-stretched" (go figure) performances of mandolin, piano, etc. There's no way you can listen to this without thinking of John Carpenter's early scores (particularly Halloween and Escape From New York), as well as Vangelis's music for Blade Runner (that film's sole redeeming feature, in my opinion. Yes, I did just say that), and I'm a sucker for this kind of electro tomfoolery. In the last third of the LP, things get slightly more rhythmic and glide into a Neu!-style beat - not a bad thing by any means - but one which, at least for me, slightly upsets the gloomy, downbeat feel of the rest of it. That's a small complaint, and probably the only one I could possibly bring up. There is nothing on this Drokk LP which will change your life nor revolutionise music as we know it, but if you buy records for those reasons then your expectations are ludicrously high and delusional and you are bound for a life of great disappointment. On a vaguely similar note, the Invada label will soon be releasing various deluxe vinyl editions of the soundtrack to the 2011 Nicolas Refn film, Drive, one of my favourite flicks of the past 12 months and one whose soundtrack was strikingly good. It was electro-splutter of a slightly different vibe from Drokk - more '80s chintz, less '70s gloom - but, along w/ contributing electronic-pop tracks from various contempo hepster outfits (as well as a few choice cuts from a top 10 desert-isle disc of moi, Eno's Apollo LP from '83), the score was composed by ex-Weirdo/Beefhearter, Cliff Martinez, and it was a remarkably effective accompinament to the visuals. It is indeed a very rare day when I happen to watch a current flick and feel the immediate need to hunt down its soundtrack upon viewing. And similarly, upon first hearing this Drokk LP, a soundtrack for a film which doesn't exist, I similarly knew I had to get my hands on it.

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