Exorcise the Demons

Feb 17, 1999 at 12:00 am

On its full-length follow-up to last year’s Controlled Developments EP, Photek-protégé-outfit Source Direct proves itself to be the UK drum ’n’ bass scene’s darkest star. Tracks such as "Mind Weaver" exaggerate hardstep and techstep jungle’s mix of menace and kineticism with slasher film eeriness, grinding black chrome basslines and an arcing – if overwrought – sense of dub paranoia. Sometimes the theater-for-the-ear approach is as gimmicky as it is clever: "Concealed Identity," the most straight-ahead, jump-up jungle track here, builds its rhythm pattern out of actual martial arts film sound effects – clanging metal, sliced air, etc. Likewise, "Dubstar" wakes up a hollowed-out, dancehall, reggae-style two-step with video game sounds.

But in a genre where the style often is the substance, SD’s dark, brooding style can, at times, be limited. Source Directors Jim Baker and Phil Aslet are indeed masters of the cinematic possibilities of d ’n’ b – so much so that the more pragmatic junglist Squarepusher once called their work "dark cheese." And on "Haunted," an ill-fated exercise in tension-building, the start-stop drums, gumpy, rolling bass and sci-fi synths are so dark and cheesy they only serve to constipate the track.

While you can’t be too hard on the Sourcers for being inconsistent – this is, after all, partially a compilation of old tracks pulled together with a few new sides for a proper American full-length – the standout tracks only make the dark that much cheesier. Compared to the lost-score-to-Alien 3 breakbeat drama of "Technical Warfare" – with its phantasmagoria of sound stabs and creepy and nauseous synths – the lesser tracks are, in the words of Casey Kasem, "fuckin’ ponderous." A Pyrrhic victory for the darkside.