SummaryWith musical arrangement skills that make film score composers red-faced with jealousy, plus a knack for impressively bass-heavy music that works in clubs and on headphones, Starkey returns with his second album for Planet Mu. Ear Drums and Black Holes takes an incredibly open-ended vision of dubstep and runs with it.
This genre cross-pollinator has released DJ mixes and tracks on his own Seclusiasis label in the so-called "street bass" subgenre. While that description covers some of the tracks here, such as "Murderous Words" (featuring Texan MC Cerebral Vortex) and the R'n'G-style "Club Games" (again with Vortex, this time adding Buddy Leezle on the mic), or the heartfelt "Numb" (with UK grime MC P-Money), this album merely starts from that point, and offers a whole dimension of new possibilities. Anneka's delightful pop vocals on "Stars" or "New Cities," featuring Japanese singer Kiki Hitomi, sounds like Yellow Magic Orchestra fast-forwarded into the contemporary world. But all these tracks would be nothing if they didn't hang together beautifully with epic robo-funk. From the melodic to the monstrous, these pieces take an almost prog approach to dustup: wide-screen and weightless, until that bass drops.
Then there's "Capsule" with its driving bass enveloped by precise melodic chords, the gorgeous boom-bap intergalactic ride of "Neck Snap," or the twisted synth dark-side grimace of "Fourth Dimension" that combines 8-bit computer game clarity with weird fairground bass and rave breakbeats. These tracks give Ear Drums a cosmic synth feel akin to a less overwrought Tangerine Dream with an "in the pocket" funkiness and incredible compositional skills.