It veers uneasily between the tough and the sugary.
Chris Power 2009-06-22
Techno swots will know 'general MIDI' as a technical specification that allows synthesizers to receive messages from other digital equipment. In other words, it's something that helps make the creation of dance music possible. General Midi, on the other hand, is Bristolian Paul Crossman, who has been active on the breakbeat scene since the late 90s. Operation Overdrive, his second album, is a mixture of underground and commercial elements that veers uneasily between the tough and the sugary.
This is an album that can be divided pretty evenly into two groups. The first, as typified by the thumping break and evilly growling bassline of Audio Assault, comprises heads-down instrumental tracks that showcase General Midi's ability to deliver dancefloor bombs. Muscularly functional and impeccably produced, there's nevertheless nothing surprising about the way in which they're constructed.
The second group is populated by poppier vocal numbers such as Poker Face (no, not that one), which pair off a succession of boilerplate breakbeat and electrohouse-style backing tracks with some pretty forgettable vocal performances. Those lending their pipes to proceedings include breathy London-based American breaks DJ and producer Odissi, Dominique Woolf (ex of Devil's Gun) and Sean Gill, who sings on the truly dreadful 80s-tinged electro-popper Absinthe.
Far better than any of these is opening track 4 Million Ways, on which the superbly named Orifice Vulgatron from UK hip-hop crew Foreign Beggars hypes the crowd (or just you if you're listening on your own) in double-time over a heavy electro backing that, obvious as it is, does its job when teamed with the vocal.
LA's Whiskey Pete performs a similar function – albeit to far less impressive effect – on Get It Down, and in so doing prompts the thought that General Midi should have ditched the pop angle and enlisted some heavyweight MCs to this project. As it is Operation Overdrive inhabits a disquieting no-man's land, its mixture of straightforward instrumental floor-fillers and attempts at pop songs ending up somewhere between Plump DJs and a Republica without the hooks.