Boomkat Product Review:
Photek’s debut LP masterpiece - a high water mark of late ‘90s D&B, broken beats, downbeat dance music - is back in circulation, ready to replace well-worn copies or grace shelves for the first time
Faithfully remastered and cut to triple 140g vinyl, ‘Modus Operandi’ sounds as vital as ever, some quarter century since original release. A landmark record then and now, it remains a key piece of 1990 UK’s rapid, inspirational developments from fast hip hop, early techno and house-influenced rave music to a form of technofied jazz and breakbeat science.
Future-proofed by its sleek, reticulated minimalism and absorbing spatial detail, the album arrived at a zenith of D&B, when the style had practically broken mainstream and achieved commercial success off the back of a near-decade of artfully competitive progression fuelled by the original Black British innovators such as Goldie, 4Hero, Doc Scott, and A Guy Called Gerald.
Those pioneers would inspire waves of musicians and electronic music producers to really up their game and move bodies in unprecedented ways, with Goldie among the earliest to cosign Photek’s meticulously devilish production style on Metalheadz’ legendary ‘Natural Born Killa EP’ (1995), based on the sheer brilliance of Photek’s self-released ‘Seven Samurai’ and ‘U.F.O.’ 12”s, and prior zingers as The Sentinel and The Truper.
With ‘Modus Operandi’, Rupert Parkes aka Photek finely balanced the fluidly rolling and stepping dynamics of jungle and D&B with a grasp of atmospheric pressure that proved its usefulness away from intensities of the ‘floor. He wasn’t the first to do this, but he was the one to really sell it to a much wider audience during the years when the word ”eclectic” was ubiquitous, and ravers’ diets consisted a blend of myriad beat patterns, from the downbeats of Mo Wax to every-week-a-new-style of D&B, techno, electro, broken beats.
‘Modus Operandi’ covered all those bases perfectly, embodying the idea oaf D&B as contemporary jazz-fusion between the pendulous breakbeat chopping and noirish, cinematic moodiness of ‘The Hidden Camera’ to the shadowplaying martial arts of ‘The Fifth Column’. Like the range of Goldie’s ‘Timeless’ or 4hero’s ‘Parallel Universe’, it messed with usual jungle/D&B meters and tempos on lush electro excursion ‘124’, and dipped to debonaire downbeats in the title tune, while chiselling new space between, and around, 160bpm brackets in the genius of ’Smoke Rings’ and tongue-tip breakbeat suspense of ‘KJZ’.
For decades now, Photek has put the sort of keen production tekkerz that he firmed up on ‘Modus Operandi’ into his work for Hollywood film soundtracks, but, for our money, his debut album remains his best work, bar none, and should be considered essential on the shelf of any breaks-curious listener or dancer.