After a three-year sabbatical, drum and bass’ minimal innovator is back with a much greater scope in mind. In contrast to 1997’s influential Modus Operandi — a darkly textured drum and bass album that stripped the entire genre to its bare essentials, making it finally live up to its name — Solaris explores new sonic ground that couldn’t have been unearthed by anyone trying to capitalize on genre-specific past successes. The result is a tasty product for open-minded lovers of electronic music in general.
Torn between his desire to dabble in his beloved Chicago-style house and Detroit techno (an obvious source for his minimal style) and corporate pressure to produce a follow-up drum and bass album, Rupert Parkes (Photek) decided to ignore the suits and put out an album that better fit his passion. This change must have been scary, considering that his last effort beckoned massive props from both commercial and underground arenas.
Here’s a brief sketch of the less-is-more electronic world of Solaris: “Terminus” and “Junk” work as a team, injecting tasteful funk and soul into the UK’s funk- and soul brother-dominated Big Beat genre. Then it’s a stealthy change into down-tempo hard house with “Glamourama,” which mixes into the full-on housey “mine to give.” Hold onto your turntables, jungle purists — this one’s got vocals; by veteran house singer Robert Owens, no less. A real stretch for MO fans, “Mine …” sounds like producer G-man (underwater-sounding house genius) after a Derrick Carter set. Its beats are a brainy and funky compliment to some hard-to-swallow vocals that win you over despite your better judgment. Just when you begin to wonder whether Parkes fell victim to amnesia, “Infinity” brings back the hard-step drum and bass … momentarily. Toward the end, the beats slow track by track from the melancholic acid-house title track into an ambient finale.
File under …? How about a copy in every section of the electronic aisle?
E-mail Robert Gorell at email@example.com.