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Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury Drokk: Music Inspired by Mega-City One Review

Album. Released 2012.  

BBC Review

Dredd himself would approve of this imagined soundtrack for 2000 AD's megalopolis.

Mike Diver 2012

Step inside your nearest CD stockist and chances are you won’t find a section for imaginary soundtracks. Yet it’s here that one should rack Drokk, a collaborative set from Portishead’s Geoff Barrow and Life of Mammals composer Ben Salisbury. It’s inspired by the near-future urban sprawl that is the fictional Mega-City One, home (and office) to 2000 AD’s most famous law enforcer, Judge Dredd.

With Dredd returning to cinemas in September, the pair’s timing is excellent. And Dredd composer proper Paul Leonard-Morgan would do well to listen to this collection should his creative mojo stall, as its various cues accompany a mind’s-eye tour of the megalopolis magnificently well.

A minimalist motorik pulse carries many a piece, the first impression being that this is more Barrow’s baby than Salisbury’s. On Inhale, Barrow’s touch is identifiable indeed, the track a close cousin of The Horrors’ Sea Within a Sea (produced by Barrow for the band’s Primary Colours LP). Throughout, the measured menace that pervades his Portishead productions is a constant constituent.

But Salisbury’s more organic than industrial presence comes to the fore at suitable intervals. Exhale is gorgeous, a heavenly echo from a Gregorian-style sect ensconced within the envisioned future world. Elsewhere, 2T[fru]T is a sublime little number, all analogue warmth beneath a veil of crackling static – this music is almost exclusively made using the Oberheim 2 Voice Synthesizer, from 1975 and therefore predating 2000 AD’s publication. Titan Bound’s repeated six-note motif is a ringer for Jon Hopkins’ Light Through the Veins, albeit one that casts a deeper, darker shadow.

Despite Hopkins’ cinematic experience – he scored 2010’s Monsters – it’s two other composers who are called to mind immediately: Brad Fiedel and Cliff Martinez. Fiedel’s work on Terminator 2 took synthesizers into new territories, turning the Fairlight CMI sampler into an iconic piece of kit. These sounds have since become synonymous with a particular breed of sci-fi movie – the dirty, gritty, ‘real’ kind – and they’re referenced throughout Drokk. Martinez, meanwhile, delivered one of 2011’s best soundtracks with Drive, and his appropriation of stripped-bare 80s electro is effectively transposed by Barrow and Salisbury to complement their own cluttered vistas.

It’s perhaps a bit long, and there may be too much repetition for some – but persist and Drokk is quite the engrossing, and sporadically discomforting, listen. Dredd would certainly approve… before introducing less-impressed critics to his trusty Lawgiver.

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