Drokk: Music inspired by Mega-City One
After seeing the name of the band 'Drokk' then listening to the track 'Justice One' (on Geoff Barrow's Invada compilation released a few months back), I asked Geoff Barrow if this incredible sci-fi drone dirge was part of a soundtrack he was doing for the forthcoming Dredd film. He replied that it wasn't. My stauner deflated. Deflated it may have been, but on listening to 'Justice One' again here, it was back. Drokk is every John Carpenter fan's wet dream, touching those levels of greatness attained by the Escape From New York original soundtrack.
I grew up listening to the ESFNY OST and reading Judge Dredd in the galaxy's greatest comic. What happened? How could something this good come about?
What came about was that Geoff Barrow hooked up with his friend Ben Salisbury, who has worked with him in the past with Portishead and various acts on the Invada label which Barrow helps run. In late 2010 the pair met up with a screenwriter to discuss some possible work on a feature film project. Although their involvement with this particular film did not continue, a collaborative writing relationship had begun. Soundtracking various nature documentaries for the BBC, Ben Salisbury has earned himself a formidable reputation, even picking up a BAFTA award in 2006 and an EMMY nomination. What can be said about Geoff Barrow you don't know already? Since coming out of hibernation in 2008 with Portishead's magnificent 'Third' album he has consistently been involved in decent releases: Beak>, Anika, Quakers as well as producing The Horrors' glide divine,'Primary Colours'.
Over the last 6 months, Barrow and Salisbury have been soundtracking a Dredd film that will never be made; one directed by Ridley Scott with Clint Eastwood playing Dredd. In their quest to make music as dark, sparse and dangerous-sounding as the city blocks of Mega City One, the pair have taken advantage of being in possession of serious vintage hardware. The majority of the tracks were created exclusively on an Oberhiem 2 Voice Synthesizer (a 1975 classic keyboard), and its on-board sequencer used to create rhythm and drums sounds. The only exceptions are a handful of pieces which combine the synth with digitally manipulated and time-stretched performances of acoustic instruments (such as piano, violin, mandolin, ukulele, voice and hammered dulcimer). Barrow's band Beak> even pop up on 'Inhale'.
19 tracks make up this analogue droning behemoth. From start to finish the theme is relentless, barely-built dark tones that could fit in as the soundtrack to just about any decent horror/sci fi film. Perhaps at times it seems that they are consciously out-Carpenter-ing Carpenter's carpentry, yet I find this intensified homage to be perversely brilliant. If they make ten more albums this good I will buy them all. The brooding 'Miami Gunman' and 'The Men Who Never Learned' are short masterpieces, building layer upon black layer of filthy synthetic tone. Fearless, stark and unresolved, even the empty spaces hold more verve and tenacity than most leading IDM conjurers' works. Both are reminiscent of early Boards of Canada, or even the magnificent 'Shogun Assassin' OST by Mark Lindsay & W. Michael Lewis. Close your eyes and these dreaded hymns will transport you into the middle of a block war.
As the UK creeps towards the police state of every Starbucks-swilling, middle class, iPad pounding kid's nightmares, at least one thing's sorted for that dystopian future: the soundtrack. It's apparent that Barrow and Salisbury are the modern day kings of the synthesizer. All hail.
Posted: Sun 22 April 2012