There was intense excitement in the bass music communities when news surfaced about fresh Photek material. As one of the most legendary drum and bass producers whose paranoid drum patterns and synthetic melodies presaged what’s come to be described as dubstep, he still commands a great deal of respect from descendants of that ’90s style. Although Photek later moved into dark house tracks, his sound signature remained clear regardless what style of music he made. This holds true for his latest releases as well, the very modern-sounding Avalanche EP.
Photek’s cold and calculated programming seems to have been severely warmed by the fires of 21st century bass music. Listen past the low-slung bass of “Avalanche” and you will hear echoes of the classically minimal drum texture of songs like “The Seven Samurai” and “The Hidden Camera.” However, the drums almost become secondary to the sweeping melodies and choruses in his newer material, a notable difference from the in-your-face drum patterns of drum and bass. “Avalanche” is a good description for the bass here, a shifting, winding progression that works in tandem with vocal samples and higher frequency flourishes. The closing track “Slowburn” is quite similar to this structure, with an ever-spiraling synth and layered percussion. It’s much more menacing than on “Avalanche,” though, with a harsher mid-range and relentless thick kicks stomping throughout. These two songs are the most exciting on the EP, showing a vibrant melding of modern sounds with the darker elements of the hardcore continuum.
The rest of the EP is given over to Photek’s unique explorations of minimal techno and house. “101” is deceptively deep, with large reverb and delay effects doing much of the heavy lifting before a grand synth line careens through the middle. Stripping the track to it’s bare essentials, Boddika’s remix bears almost no resemblance to the original, focusing on the drums and submerging the melodic elements far below complex syncopation. Sure to be a big track in clubs this year, “This City” reminds me of the uptempo work of Joy Orbison, with looping vocal samples, sinuous bass and melodies, all backed by a steady rhythm. As uplifting as this song appears to be, Photek’s darker tendencies appear mid-way with a fuzzy, dirty sweep of noise before lapsing back into blissed out territory. The shelf life of electronic music producers is never a sure thing, with many “big things” lapsing into anonymity after a year or two. Photek has remained respected and prolific because he seems to never to stop changing his spots, constantly going against the grain and updating his sound to suit his progression. If Avalanche is any indication, I think we will hear new and exciting music from him for years to come.