Geoff Barrows/Ben Salisbury “DROKK”

I don’t know how this record came to be.  I only know it’s produced by Geoff Barrow (of Portishead and Beak) and Ben Salisbury (a film director and writer – I think).  When I pulled it off the wall at Poobah

, my favorite vinyl place in Los Angeles, what caught my eye was the dreary stone-like image on the cover.  It looked coarse, but also smooth in places.  Of course Geoff Barrow’s name was the clincher. Being a Portishead fanatic and lover of Beak: The purchase was a moral imperative.  The staff at the record store told me the LP was a soundtrack to a film series.  They also told me the music was satisfyingly cinematic.  They were right!  Now, that probably seemed obvious, given it’s a soundtrack , but that’s not always the case believe it or not.  Sometimes they’re merely song compilations, and so when you hear the songs in that particular sequence you think of the movie accompaniment.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  The great thing aboutDROKK: It stands on its own merit.

Have you ever heard the opening theme to The Thing; the John Carpenter remake starring Kurt Russell?  It’s a classic minimal score for a thriller.  It’s 2 notes, floating in space, repeating: dun duh, dun duh, dun duh, only imagine it symphonic and bassy with subtle distortion.  A swirling synth line swoops in, sounding like a found ambient sound played backwards, then sped up.  It’s a fuckin’ dark and mysterious way to kick off the record.  Forty seconds in I was hooked.  Then the music came to an abrupt end.  No fade, no transition into the next track at all.  At first this bugged me because the next cut “Helmet Theme” is a speedy techno number that mixes highly unexpected electronic piano riffs with a Richie Hawtin-esqe closing (building stabs and clicky pounding).

The lack of transitions between tracks is annoying, especially with music like this, where it’s obviously backing up an accompanying visual.  The fact that tracks end so quickly, so harshly, these feelings get built up inside me while listening, and when the music meets such an abrupt end it can seem like a let-down.  The funny thing is: Another part of me says fuck it.  Anything different, anything new to explore and listen to.  Right? Another aspect of DROKK that I like: It’s story-like in the way the telling of a good story touches certain emotions within you that you don’t usually think of.  How does it accomplish this?

By being surprising.  You’re listening, the tech house beats are increasing in intensity, everything comes together in a grand splash of sound followed by an airy ambient masterpiece – the kind of music you can listen to anytime.  The energy changes, though much of it leans towards an amphetamine pace.  The breakdowns are phenomenally executed, keeping the listener engaged.  Shit, I’ve been transfixed by this record more times than I want to admit actually.  It sounds so fuckin’ good, I’ve fallen asleep in my listening chair hitting play when I should’ve been hitting the rack!  A good record should keep you listening like that.

I hope DROKK picks up a dedicated following.  From what I’ve heard of the new Daft Punk record (I’ll admit I’m waiting like a junkie), this LP also has a future vibe that’s difficult to quantify.  It’s taken me to some crazy places during listening sessions, and I love that about fresh music.  It sparks fresh thought and lets your imagination roam a bit.  That’s high on my list when seeking out new music and sounds: Does it spark something new inside me when I listen to it.  DROKK does that for me.  It’s a record that’s going to stay in my DJ bag and all my players.  It’s that special to me.  If stepping outside the sonic fray is a goal of yours I highly recommend DROKK by Geoff Barrows and Ben Salisbury.


Michael Mercer is a veteran reviewer of music and audio components. He got his start working for The Absolute Sound as a teenager and then made his way over to Atlantic Records, working with the legendary producer Arif Mardin. Considered one of the leading "crusaders for personal audio", Mercer can be found writing for many audio publications on the Internet.

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