Amazingly it's been nearly 12 years since the last full-blown DJ Food record was released through Ninja Tune. In that time the musical landscape has changed somewhat and smaller EP releases have come and gone, but the DJ collective led by Strictly Kev has now compiled a new album; The Search Engine. Although more eclectic than its predecessor Kaleidoscope, it is no less compelling as ear candy.
While the beats, vocal samples and more classical influences are still at the forefront of the album, it veers into other territory as diverse as garage rock and techno with varying results. The Search Engine by nature of its title brings to mind an internet search, where some of the pages seem at first unconnected. However there is a loose theme to the material of science fiction and space travel, highlighted by the cover artwork provided by 2000AD alumni Henry Flint. The origin of the 56 minutes of music contained within The Search Engine, selected from three previous EP's, does lead to a slightly unbalanced overall experience, but there's certainly merit to persevering through the 12 tracks.
Ominous and drum heavy opener 'All Covered In Darkness (Pt. 1)' sounds like Kev's introduction to his very own space age. Backed by a mantra of "As we leave here now" this vocal sample soup creates images of rockets and travel beyond the speed of light. It's an appropriate introduction to what's to come, if a little hyperactive for its own good. It gives way to a significantly beefed up version of 'GIANT' with its catchy bassline, however Matt Johnson's soulful vocal seems a little lost within an ever growing wall of sound. It's certainly one of the better moments on the album, but isn't without its imperfections.
The moment where The Search Engine starts to flounder is 'The Illectrik Hoak'. While it's a perfectly competent and raucous garage rock performance from Natural Self, it sits uncomfortably on the album, as Kev seemingly takes a back seat and merely adds small electronic flourishes. Its presence is made even more odd as the drum and bass infected 'Sentinel (Shadow Guard)' follows it. Again this is a track that struggles to find an identity on the album, as sedate harps and strings are battered into submission by DK and a thumping bass motif. The album starts to find its feet again during the meandering instrumental 'In Orbit Every Monday', but in truth it's the epic 'Magpie Music' that's worth hanging on for. This is truly the food for DJ's that Kev is known to create, as samples warp and fade in and out to create a tapestry of sound. The final two tracks follow a similar cue to breathe life into the space journey that The Search Engine is presumably meant to be sending you on.
So while the album ends on a real high, it's not really a cohesive record, but more a compilation. When viewed like that, you become far more forgiving of The Search Engine's schizophrenic nature with multiple personalities vying for prominence. It certainly lacks the standout moments of it's predecessor Kaleidoscope, however there is food enough to nourish your ears here, just think of it more as DJ Salad, rather than DJ Food.
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