Record of the Month
It’s a strange affliction (a malfunction in my programming, perhaps) that, when faced with the word ‘food’, I automatically think of Mark Lester. Y’know, Mark Lester, who – as Dickensian whippersnapper Oliver Twist – hot-steps to Harry Secombe, and, incredulously, requests another bowl of gruel. “MORE?!” Secombe irksomely interrobangs. Meanwhile…in a musical galaxy far, far away, DJ Food’s first release in eleven years is more Google than frugal: the range of influences it draws upon, and concoctions it presents, are seemingly unbounded. And, like any ‘reliable’ search engine, it frequently produces results you don’t see coming; although, fortunately, they’re rarely of the sort you wouldn’t want. With Safesearch switched off, then, allow me to switch on.
It’s clear, from the inner space The Search Engine navigates, that the sci-fi element is strong with this one. While, at times, electric-sheep dreamy (‘Colours Beyond Colours’, for instance, is a wonderfully ethereal end to proceedings), it also shifts unexpectedly to more perilous landscapes. ‘All Covered in Darkness (Pt.1)’ is perforated by errant Buck Rogers blips and bleeps, and a piano tinkles against Merseybeat-style harmonising. Out there, somewhere, in the vast nothingness of space, Twiki is spocking out.
The cover version of ‘GIANT’ (by The The) is rather special. Admittedly, it’s hard to better the original, but it blends in, with the scene hitherto depicted, endearingly: we find Matt Johnson in fine fettle amidst the knock-knock of primal clapsticks and binary-code melody. Immediately after, a Moebius-era Orbital voiceover features on ‘Intermission: a New Language’, which, inadvertently, presents one of the few common threads on the LP.
That’s all before Natural Self apes Mike Patton on ”The Illectrik Hoax’. I’ve no idea what the lyrics mean – and I think that’s beside the point – but the verses are more than a bit vocally-reminiscent of John Garcia’s drawl on ‘Born Too Slow’ by The Crystal Method. Personally, I think the album is far stronger when it relinquishes these trappings and reverts to non-derivative type. The caustic ‘Sentinel’, for one, is unnervingly heavy, and verges on Amon Tobin territory. I particularly like the pre-Millennium (Bug) tension of ‘Prey’. Going back to the Patton allusions (think: Tomahawk; Fantômas) cast earlier, the shredded vocals are as if siphoned through a malfunctioning gas mask; a Frank Booth-lullaby.
The cosmonaut-crackle of ‘In Orbit Every Monday’ pulls the ship closer to planet Psyence Fiction; information-gathering swirls sweep in and out of the intermissions and creep into neighbouring tracks. That ominous sentinel makes its presence known once again on ‘Outermission: Sheer Fiction’ before the intergalactic squelch of ‘Magpie Music’. The latter’s sample-heavy logic is tinged with Coldcut-era nostalgia; yet, the result is markedly more abstract, and impressive for it.
Caveat emptor: if DJ Food’s latest LP really were a search engine, you might ask for your money back. Just as well it’s not. For this album takes you on a labyrinthine journey through the abstract section we don’t see; the imagined expanse in which the data exist. This journey, far from being routine, is a mind-bending one; hence, it isn’t about where it brings you, but how it brings you there. And, while it’s certainly not gruel, that won’t stop me from saying: please, sir, I want some more.
Words: Ben Nicholas
The Search Engine is out now on Ninja Tune