Music

Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury: DROKK

Portishead's Geoff Barrow and composer Ben Salisbury team up to present an auditory version of 2000 AD's infamous Mega-City One.


Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury

DROKK

Label: Invada UK
US Release Date: 2012-05-01
UK Release Date: 2012-05-01
Amazon
iTunes

The two men responsible for DROKK, composer Ben Salisbury and Portishead's Geoff Barrow, met in the unlikeliest of places -- a football club for old men in Bristol. Both had joined the team and subsequently left in pursuit of a collaborative musical project. At one point they had met with an undisclosed screenwriter to pitch an idea and discuss possible work on a film project. Though their work on that film never came to fruition, the pair decided to adventure further into the enterprise they had already begun and committed to. DROKK is that project's end result, an attempted effort to create an auditory accompaniment to the legendary Mega-City One landscape, home of 2000 AD comics' Judge Dredd.

While DROKK is appropriately stark, post-apocalyptic in atmosphere, and unnerving, it's also a little too much of the former two, which dampens the latter element. Several of these tracks only feature one instrument, the Oberhiem 2 Voice Synthesizer, from 1975. That decision alone also lends a slightly campy feel to the proceedings, which would normally be perfectly befitting of an attempted recreation of a comic, but here that aspect falls a little flat. The duo's commitment to only using the Oberhiem 2 also limits their sound possibilities and imposes noticeable restrictions. Barrow and Salisbury both navigate around DROKK with the relative finesse you'd expect from two seasoned veterans but after a time DROKK just start to feel tired and repetitive.

Of course, Barrow and Salisbury being who they are, there are some flashes of brilliance littered throughout DROKK, especially when they expand their palette past the Oberhiem and allow things like violin, piano, mandolin, ukelele, and hammered dulcimer into the mix. There's also a particularly welcome cameo from Barrow's band Beak>. There's also some points in DROKK that feel masterful despite being so minimalist, like opener "Lawmaster / Pursuit". However, around the halfway point DROKK begins to suffer not for lack of scope but for excess of material. The further in the record gets, the less interesting it becomes, saving for the unexpected flashes of ambient brilliance. Around "Miami Lawgiver" is when this transition takes full effect and DROKK never really fully recovers.

In DROKK endless pursuit of emulation it loses some voice, which is necessary for a project such as this to truly succeed and stand out as one of the great works of the genre. It becomes abundantly clear from the opening strains of "Eagle", possibly DROKK's worst track, that the duo's not up to the task of achieving that. However, at various points it does seem like that's a goal they were aiming for but they continuously missed the mark. One of DROKK's most welcome reprieves is "Exhale" which interrupts the record's worst run with it's mot expansive and engaging song. "Iso Hunt" follows and offers gorgeous ambiance but little in the way of pacing or context. Those two tracks mark the record's brightest moments and though they're both relatively fleeting, they're very welcome.

DROKK's final stretch is really just an exercise in patience to make it through to the end. When it finally does end it ends with a reprise that's essentially just an extended version of "Helmet Theme". It's a curious choice that ultimately bookends the record making it very hard not to assess as one piece. Each track taken out of the context of the record and listened to on its own offers varying degrees of reward. Packaged altogether, though, DROKK becomes a towering work that's infuriatingly middling and restricted. Barrow and Salisbury both maintained an atmosphere they establish with the first song incredibly well and offer a few thrills along the way but ultimately DROKK doesn't stand as much more than a curiosity piece for completists.

5

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less
10

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image