Ayo Jegede
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May 04, 2004
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Modus Operandi Modus Operandi
September 9, 1997
Astralwerks
Solaris Solaris
September 19, 2000
Astralwerks
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September 15, 1998
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Photek
Solaris


"what do you call someone who speaks two languages?"

"bilingual."

"what do you call someone who speaks three?"

"trilingual."

"what do you call someone who speaks only one language?"

"American."

Photek's 1997 debut Modus Operandi rigified drum n' bass, almost unintentionally crafting the perimeters of the genre. the work sounds--and was--an exhausting process employing themes of claustrophobic technology and esoteric Oriental knowledge on songs like 'The Hidden Camera' and 'Aleph 1.' hailed as the official purveyor and perfector of drum n' bass in some circles, life still went on for Rupert Parkes. his musical agenda wasn't entirely fixed on the 1997 effort--nor the subsequent and equally good Risc v. Reward and Form and Function compilations--and he retired to his London home with his wife and Dutch film director Miriam Kruishoop. in the three years following Modus Operandi Photek honed his skills further. his goal was to create something which was warmer and more human without necessarily sacrificing the fundamental aspects of music that was just as important. after all, drum n' bass and humanity are mutually exclusive according to most afficionados. but Parkes wasn't so self-serving and thought that thematic cohabitation was possible. on Solaris he successfully attempted to articulated two languages.

'Terminus' is immediately catchy and doesn't seem to strike a different path than the standard drum n' bass lot, but there's a hint of distance. the beats bounce around with ease and a largesse unbecoming of the style. the bass lines explode and swallow themselves whole, plunging everything else into an uncertain ocean. a couple songs in, 'Glamourama' is even more queer than the previous. the beat patterns are strikingly unusual, but done on purpose. the beats and bass certainly belong to the family of drum n' bass, but their expected arrangement is permutated to sound like acid house. indeed, this realization becomes fuller when Robert Owens, whose silky, easy voice wouldn't normally behave well with such a rigid genre, appears on 'Mine to Give' and 'Can't Come Down.' the second language Photek uses is that of acid house and techno; that's the human aspect he wanted to add. in reference to why Parkes deviated from Modus Operandi so sharply he said: "If I'd carried on down that journey, it would have been unlistenable for a while. It would have been totally aesthetic and technical. And that's not what music's about."

of course that didn't stop many from shunning this hybrid. Parkes was too much of a maverick, especially after the brilliant back catalogue he had fabricated. he had previously made music that was so immense and unquestionably inspired that it spawned a nation of acolytes. many accused Solaris of being a great palinode of his career; naysayers who felt that one brilliant language was better than the attempt to expand the general lexicon. irrespective of their judgment, Parkes has quelled a great curiosity among at least a few of us: can drum n' bass be aurally different yet fundamentally the same? Solaris proves that such a concept is possible; it just involves learning one or two new languages.

Release date: September 19, 2000
Label: Astralwerks
Rating: 9.0 / 10

[RMR]