Starkey Ear Drums and Black Holes Review

Album. Released 2010.  

BBC Review

Saddle up for an intergalactic sonic journey, moving both air and brain-cells.

Adam Kennedy 2010

Gutter Music, the standout track on Philadelphia producer Starkey’s 2008 debut album Ephemeral Exhibits, said everything about his self-dubbed ‘street bass’, an explosion of sub-woofer-cracking beats best imbibed via a block-wobbling car stereo. Starkey, aka Paul J Geissinger, has diversified big, bad and bassy extremes this time around, however, lending Ear Drums and Black Holes similarly accurate titular peeps through the keyhole.

A homeland forerunner in the sonic catchalls of grime and dubstep, promoting his own nights and labels, Geissinger is among a rare few Stateside producers to have successfully competed in such quintessentially British artforms. But while Ephemeral Exhibits demonstrated a fine ear for blast-waves of future dubstep, if anything, Ear Drums… takes a sideward step to allow grime influences to catch up. That certainly reflects the fact that London stalwarts Durrty Goodz and Roll Deep’s Trim have rhymed over his productions since Ephemeral Exhibits.

Treading a tricky balance between club and home listening, it follows that Ear Drums… is possibly the best showcase to date for Geissinger’s enthusiastic gobbling of the yawning middle ground between his two chief genre posts. The advanced rhythm and grime that follows won’t always have disciples of flat-out chest-rattling tunes entranced, particularly on prior single Stars, a dreamscape breathed all over by angel-voiced Brighton-based singer Anneka. It does, though, skip between whims with sufficient velocity to keep everyone from grime aficionados to casual listeners interested, making brief summation a near impossibility.

The ghost of RnB’s obsession with Auto-Tune is resurrected on Alienstyles one moment, while the next Geissinger locks into a pitching groove so monstrous there’s real danger he could dislodge heads via compulsive nodding (see Capsule). Fourth Dimension, meanwhile, fires out an off-centre take on dubstep certainly deserving adjectives like ‘wonky’, rather than the sub-genre tag of the same name.

If you’re looking for the instant high of dubstep’s big rollers or grime’s fieriest MCs, Ear Drums and Black Holes isn’t the answer. Everybody else, saddle up for an intergalactic sonic journey concerned with moving both air and brain-cells, without more than fleetingly pandering to either need.

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