Photek Flexes Versatility, Diversity On "Solaris"

Sonicnet Music News

Rupert Parkes, who records as Photek, doesn't want to be the king of minimal drum & bass.

Although his meticulously methodical, surgically precise, and intricate patterns meshed well with some of his earlier productions' blend of paranoia and Eastern philosophy, Parkes, 28, has proven himself as a master of several styles on the many records he's released since the early '90s. Having produced tracks for Goldie's Metalheadz label, LTJ Bukem's family of imprints, and his own labels, the more accurate tag for Photek is the king of versatility.

"Rupert is one of the best programmers in the world," said Bukem, founder of Good Looking Records and one of drum & bass' early pioneers. "I've got a lot of time for him."

It was that attention to detail on Photek's 1997 debut full-length, "Modus Operandi" -- where his skeletal constructions were punctuated by discrete sine waves -- that garnered him the minimal title. But Parkes,

speaking from a London mastering studio where he was preparing dubplates of new tracks to spin on his recent American tour, sees no need to be judged solely by his debut.

"My first album was, yeah, minimal, almost cold, a private world almost," he said. "But if you read my first album as a statement of my life in music then you'd be mistaken. I never set out to be Mr. Minimal.... I've had my jazzy moments and my techno moments and all kinds of moments. We're all multidimensional characters.... It's not like a mission statement, that one album. It's just a snapshot in time."

It comes as no surprise, then, that no one was prepared for Photek's latest release, "Solaris," an album that includes only one industrial-strength drum & bass track, "Infinity." The remaining 10 tracks span warm two-step garage, a touch of techno --and, in a fairly shocking twist, house.

Raymond Roker, publisher of "URB" magazine and a renowned jungle DJ in his own right, supports Parkes' intrepid

spirit. "Photek and artists like that want to explore other kinds of beats, and that's fine. I think it just widens the acceptability of artists to create on whatever label they create on. That's the way it should have been from the beginning."

Accordingly, the attitude Parkes took while recording "Solaris" was adventurous and open.

"I went into the studio saying I'm not going to think about the style of music I'm going to make or what type of music I feel I should make," he said. "It was the only criteria I laid down, to just make music that you want to hear, and don't think about genres or anything else.... I must say I had a lot more fun making this record than my first album."

One distinctive sound that does stand out in the mix is the voice of house legend Robert Owens, who sang on several tracks by Chicago producer Larry Heard's seminal Fingers Inc. project.

"I wanted to work with Robert from since before I even made music," Parkes revealed. "And I

wanted his voice just like I want a particular sound off a Roland B50 keyboard I've always loved. It was kind of like, I've waited long enough and it's time I got into the studio with Robert."

Similarly, the overall sound of "Solaris" is fairly nostalgic, recalling some of Parkes' favorite influences circa 1991: Carl Craig on Derrick May's Transmat label, Fingers Inc., U.K. down-tempo producer Nightmares On Wax. Within the record's first three tracks can be found traces of drum & bass' early-'90s "darkside" period, when the music, still in its nascent stage, reflected the tough side of the London ghettos from which it sprang.

However, within short reach are two Chicago-influenced gems (with Owens on vocals), "Mine To Give" and "Can't Come Down," as well as some cinematic flourishes.

Parkes says his experience composing the score to "Unter Den Palmen," a film his wife directed, helped free him for the diversity of "Solaris." It's a project he would love to repeat.

In addition to potential scores for some films and video games, Parkes also is remixing a single by Ananda Project, the latest alias of Atlanta house producer Chris Brann, and preparing the release of singles by himself and fellow U.K. drum & bass luminary (and collaborator, under the name Special Forces) Peshay on his Photek label.

After returning from his U.S. tour, which ended Tuesday, Parkes plans to head back into the studio with Owens to "do whatever happens."