The latest installation in !K7's venerable DJ-Kicks series sees veteran producer Rupert Parkes (a.k.a. Photek) navigating territory outside of his norm. Mostly known for his iconic productions during the golden years of jungle, the mix is a departure to the grey areas between dance music's various subgenres. In the end though, it doesn't feel as groundbreaking or surprising as it should, instead coming off more like a concerted effort to keep abreast of contemporary trends in UK-centric dance music.
Things start on an awkward footing with Photek's own "Azymuth," a meandering cut of instrumental trip-hop that's a little too epic for its own good. Riding a rising synth tone over a bandpass-filtered break, it sounds as though it's intended to complement a VST installation screen. It's not particularly inspired, but the tracks that follow it are some of the least conventional and most interesting selections on the mix. One drop and 3:55 later, we're at Kromestar's "In 2 Minds," a song that intertwines a reese bass with a beat reminiscent of The Neptunes' work on "Drop it Like It's Hot." Strong on its own, it's made even more interesting by Parkes' decision to connect it to the nouveau-Balearic shuffle of Hot Toddy's "I Need Love feat. Ron Basejam (Morgan Geist Love Dub)."
The mix is split up into segments that follow along loosely grouped rhythmic themes. The first section is characterized by a feeling of inertia—it's slow and builds vertically without moving forward. By contrast, the second section takes off at a fast clip, starting with DJG's "Here Come The Dark Lights." It works as a good segue, with droning ambient pads leading into a crisp, synthesized breakbeat. Gaining velocity, the mix finds its speed and floats through a dubwise soundscape with moments spent in tech house and acid. It's technically perfect, but the song selection emphasizes rhythmic texture over narrative structure, leaving the whole thing feeling a little hollow.
The better parts are those that move away from conventional computer-driven hotmix cliches. For instance, the simple fade between Daze Maxim's "Tomorrow Universe" and Sepalcure's "Taking You Back" works well to reset the mood and rhythm. It's one of the mix's highlights, clearly standing out with an unaccompanied acapella drifting through samples of heavy rainfall. This reset doesn't work as well when it's used to segue into the new-age ambience of "Levitation," a Photek original that's reminiscent of the bombast of "Azymuth." Two tracks later and we're at "Look at Yourself" by Synkro, an R&B-tinged bass cut that marks the last peak before the final descent.
Unfortunately, Parkes ends things on the same note with which he began. "101 (Boddika Remix)" is a sparse rhythm track made forgettable by the overwrought cooing of a rave diva. This leads finally into Parxe & Grincheux's "The Art of Nothing Pt. 1," an atmospheric coda that evaporates into a spike of tape feedback.