Stone Breaker takes a left turn from the slinky disco featured on Mark E's Works 2005-2009, yet it's still clearly the handiwork of this underrated, stylish house producer.
Mark E is a British producer who arrived late to the house music party, writing credible disco edits of ancient sex jams like Patti Labelle's "Moon Shadow" and Al Hudson's "I Am Under Your Spell". For Stone Breaker, E's first album that at least doesn't appear like an odds 'n' ends compilation (the others were called Works 2005-2009), he jumps off the booze cruise into decidedly more frigid waters. What was once warm and sticky is now rock solid; intrusive rhythmic elements and vocoder bots have overthrown the voices from the black clubs of the '70s and '80s. It's a clomping, alien shout-out to the American pioneers of techno, as cold as ice on Neptune and as automatic as a chain gang breaking stones with sledgehammers. ("Oranges" splits from this trend, and quite beautifully too, coasting along on synth pads like B12's Indian summer.) But Stone Breaker is no mere imitation of Detroit in 1987. Not content to simply mimic the past, Mark E finds interesting spins on classic sounds and makes the most of small adjustments -- clipping the kick drums, for example -- to turn throwbacks into nicely de rigueur house numbers. The gridded tempo and lack of obviously human elements mean the carnal implications are not as immediate, but Stone Breaker continues Mark E's impressive, underrated run in his signature style.