Friday 23 November 2012

Drokk: Music Inspired by Mega-City One – reviewed by Stephen Theaker

As part of Portishead, Geoff Barrow has created four of my favourite albums of all time. Drokk: Music Inspired by Mega-City One (Invada UK, 56 mins), in collaboration with film and television composer Ben Salisbury, may be a side project, but it is very nearly as superb as his other work. This isn’t actually the soundtrack to the forthcoming Dredd, whose composer is Paul Leonard-Morgan. But it did apparently begin there, as exploratory sketches, and it says a lot for the music that although they didn’t end up working on the film, the musicians involved felt those ideas were too good to leave unexplored, and came back to finish them off.

The nineteen tracks begin with “Lawmaster/Pursuit” and end with “Helmet Theme (Reprise)”, the titles between having titles like “Justice One”, “Iso Hymn” and “Titan Bound”. It’s fair to say, though, that while one hopes the actual Dredd film matches the one this album evokes in your head, without a tracklist you might well think this the music for a new outing for Snake Plissken or MacReady, so closely does it stick to the template of a John Carpenter soundtrack. Track seven “Exhale” is an exception, but even that sounds like a lost track from Blade Runner. If that makes the album sound derivative, well, it is—but it’s also exceptionally good.

Musically it doesn’t seem to be very complex, most tracks simply contrasting ambient hums and noise with a repetitive synthesizer line or two, but it is extremely effective. I loved the parts of Third where weird sf sounds would poke through, so to have that element unpacked over a full album was for me an unexpected treat. One criticism I could make is that the short cover of the card case, while very dramatic, leaves part of the actual CD exposed, but that won’t be a problem until the CD leaves my stereo, and it seems to have settled in for a very long stay.

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