Mark E: Stone Breaker
Spectral Sound

That Stone Breaker is Mark E's debut album shouldn't be taken to mean he's some just-out-of-the-cradle neophyte. Birmingham-based Mark Evetts has been producing tracks and releasing material since 2005 on labels such as Golf Channel, Sonar Kollektiv, Running Back, Endless Flight, Jiscomusic, and his own MERC imprint, so it's no surprise that the album's material, which holds up equally well as club and listening material, sounds as polished as it does. In fact, the album came about somewhat by accident: having found himself with free time in mid-2010, he created a number of pieces, so many that the idea of collecting them on an artist album started to seem like the most natural move. The collection certainly provides a clear portrait of his style: unswerving in their rhythmic focus and machine-like drive, the album's tracks are pervaded by a bouyant bounce, and there's a relentlessness to the unwavering beat patterns that, in a track such as “Black Country Saga,” is reminiscent of Kompakt. Similarly, the clubby, percussion-heavy workout “Got To Get Me There” serves up a ten-minute primal throwdown of militant rhythms and bottomfeeding bass throb that's just as singularly focused. Here and elsewhere, the bass-and-drum patterns cycle and loop repeatedly, growing ever more hypnotic as they do so. Raw in its primal insistence yet sophisticated in the richness of its synthetic layering, the opener “Archway”uses pounding kick drums and swoon-inducing synth smears to capture Stone Breaker's melodically lean but rhythmically muscular sound.

Head-nodder “Black Country Saga” hammers home a slippery groove that seems equal parts funk, crunk, and disco, and especially bulldozing is “Belvide Beat,” which initially marries a Solvent-styled vocodered effect to an impossibly chugging base comprised of a roiling bass line and ringing techno cymbals before undergoing a raw acid infestation. The wiry “Quatro” spotlights his uplifting side with mechanized sunshowers of exuberant house swing, while vocal exhortations in “The Day” reflect his more soulful leanings. The album's high point and one of the funkiest and most impressively arranged tracks, “Oranges” rolls out a backbeat hi-hat swing and offbeat bass line before wrapping it in creamy synth chords. For eight lush minutes, Evetts fashions a slinky, future-house sound that's alluring, even when it takes a detour into a Keith Emerson-styled Moog episode. Stone Breaker turns out to be not only representative of Evetts' Mark E style but of Ghostly/Spectral too in one specific sense, in that it sticks close to a particular format without deviating in too extreme a manner from that conceived style. If there are no incredible highs (“Oranges” notwithstanding), there are no incredible lows either.

June 2011