King Roc: Chapters
Process Recordings

UK producer Martin Dawson (aka King Roc) is one-half of Two Armadillos (the other is Secretsundaze's Giles Smith) but you'll hear a whole lot more than house music on Dawson's debut album Chapters. Having achieved an enviable level of success in dance circles—DJing in Brazil, China, Australia, and in clubs throughout Europe and the UK, and doing remixes for the likes of Future Sound of London and New Order—the Brazil- and Berlin-based Dawson found himself in 2006 well-sated with the scene and eager to tackle something different and break out of the 4/4 framework. A meeting with Australian artist Seb Godfrey proved to be the catalyst and the collaborative outcome was four 12-inch releases of music ranging from ambient to trip-hop to techno (Lunaris, Communique, Equilibrium, and Dreamatic, all of them issued on Dawson 's own Mutual Society imprint). A number of EP cuts re-appear on the eighty-minute CD but re-shaped for the “concept” album's context.

One could easily mistake “The Beginning,” with its brooding trip-hop blend of piano and orchestral strings, as the work of The Cinematic Orchestra rather than King Roc. The material, like the album in general, is grandiose in its vision and panoramic in its sweep. Following an ambient intro, “Random Chances” struts its dance moves, indicating that Dawson hasn't banished the club from Chapters' grooves. A classic house pulse barrels forth, with rollicking swells of strings, hand drums, and piano adding colour to the ride. “The Growing Phrase,” a sparkling mix of melodic techno and house of the kind one might expect to hear on a Buzzin' Fly Two Armadillos single, bolsters its marching feel with a whistling section. “A Pocket Full of Prose” offers an Orbital-styled mix of brooding strings, feverish melodies, and hammering beats; “Everything from Nothing” dresses up its elegant house raver with an epic, wide-screen arrangement; and “Flow” augments its deep trip-hop languor with a soothing flute motif and strings. There are some less enthralling moments—a growling male vocal performance renders “Lunar People” less appealing (an uncredited female singer fares better on the dubby trip-hop stepper “Beautiful But Weird”) and the regrettably-titled “DiscoVery#1” brings the album back to earth with a retro ska-tinged disco groove one might otherwise hear in a New Wave song—but otherwise Chapters largely lives up to its ambitious goals.

March 2009