Starkey, Ephemeral Exhibits

[Planet Mu]

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In this era of laptop production and file sharing, a genre that once thrived on limited white labels and expensive dubplates was bound to be pushed forward by outsiders. Once only heard in a few south London clubs and on pirate radio, dubstep is now a global phenomenon. You can thank the Internet for this, as well as labels like Planet Mu that give us well-distributed, nicely packaged, defining moments in the genre’s evolution, and not always from mainstays of the London scene or even dubstep artists per se. Ephemeral Exhibits is one of these moments, as well as a good example of outsider dubstep.

Paul Geissinger, aka Starkey, is a Philadelphia-based DJ/producer who operates Slit Jockey Records with fellow Seclusiasis Studios crew members Dev79 and El Carnicero and is a member of New York’s Trouble & Bass crew. An early adopter of UK grime and dubstep, Geissinger prefers to call it street bass, a term coined by Dev79. Whatever you call it, he’s found success in a niche few outside of Europe have. With a back catalog of dozens of singles and remixes on numerous American and European labels, his Planet Mu debut is also his first full length album.

Ephemeral Exhibits isn’t some futuristic vision of what music will be like in the 22nd century; it’s simply the sound of the underground. Heavy on the wobble (a fun word for low frequency oscillation) and layered with wonky arpeggiated synths, the album offers stronger harmonic consonance than previous Starkey productions while maintaining the spastic energy of “Less Than Paper,” his first release for Slit Jockey in 2005. The production also sounds cleaner, but still rough enough around the edges to be called street bass or, indeed, “Gutter Music.” Unfortunately, the aforementioned track is only available digitally, but may see a vinyl release on Keysound Recordings later in 2009.

Unlike some American-made dubstep, which suffers from the heavier-than-thou aesthetics of 21st century drum & bass, Geissinger’s sound does more with less. “Pictures” and “Last Chance” are at once reminiscent of early grime’s stripped down riddims and contemporary dubstep’s wobbly basslines. Moments of rest are provided by track like “Miracles” and “Time Traveller.” The standout tune is “Escape,” which is deceptively calm before an engaging yet subdued synth riff suddenly erupts and is answered by stabs of laser bass. Both the vinyl and digital versions end with an interesting hybrid entitled “Spacewalk,” while sets a simple piano riff to a portamento synth line that doubles as melody and bass, while combining a four-to-the-floor kick with a half-time snare.

The Starkey sound seems to have matured while maintaining its characteristic rawness. In Ephemeral Exhibits it finds a larger platform that will surely gain it greater exposure. Planet Mu continues to show high standards of quality control as it surprises us with artists from all corners of the underground. From Philadelphia to London to anywhere that has a street or two, the outsiders are in and have brought extra subwoofers.

RAW  on February 3, 2009 at 1:03 AM

nice review for a great album.

Having not really bothered with Planet Mu releases for a long time due to their drill ‘n’ bass leanings, I really got into a bunch of their 2008 roster (Distance, Italtek, Mrs Jynx…) I’m not sure if I’d just overlooked a bunch of their stuff previously or if they’ve just broadened their boundaries in recent times

lora  on February 3, 2009 at 3:58 AM

wicked as always,
credit to the drawing as well, who made it?

littlewhiteearbuds  on February 3, 2009 at 8:01 AM

I wish I knew, didn’t find any credits with it.

Aubrey  on February 3, 2009 at 12:28 PM

The artwork is done by John Baizley. It was commissioned for Darkest Hour’s Deliver Us album art. He’s also done work for Baronness and Pig Destroyer.

kompakter  on February 3, 2009 at 9:40 PM

Loving this. Thanks for the heads-up. Nice to see quality dubstep being created in the States.

starkey  on February 5, 2009 at 10:20 AM

thanks for the nice review and kind words bill.

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