For a producer with a bona-fide classic album under his belt—Global Communication's nearly two-decade-old ambient opus 76:14—Mark Pritchard keeps a pretty low profile. His latest EP under his own name finds the Sydney-based musician fluently traversing the breadth of Simon Reynolds' "hardcore continuum" with an effortlessness that makes the benign neglect of his work seem truly baffling. The stylistic range on display on Ghosts points to a possible explanation: Pritchard doesn't have one signature style, although he continues to flirt with footwork tropes as he does in his Africa Hitech project with Steve Spacek. He's equally adept at a number of different sounds, which always makes it hard to predict how his latest project will play off whatever's hot at the moment. As for this EP though, it is as unassuming as it is accomplished; "Duppies" introduces itself with the metallic screams of a bird of prey over impatient, threading footwork kicks, only to veer into gut-wrenching LFO bass lifted from dubstep, jungle breakbeats, and hoovering rave stabs. In a little under eight minutes, Pritchard has summarized 20 years of genre upheaval, but the energy on display is too mental to make it a merely academic or retro exercise.
The four other original tracks are no slouches, either. "Manabadman" is a three-minute blitz featuring drum & bass MC Spikey Tee covering every available surface with verbiage over combustible UK funky rhythms. "Ghosts" and "Get Wyld" also take off, despite their vanilla vocal samples. The former trampolines off its restless, sub-heavy bass drum into a kaleidoscopic explosion of geeked-up synths and popcorn snares that provide more than enough flavor to recuperate the robotic voice dryly informing us that "There were ghosts." "Get Wyld" widens its stance into a broad-shouldered hip-hop swagger, but the toughness allows Pritchard to backdoor the EP's prettiest melody. Although there's nothing particularly innovative about Ghosts, and its references tend toward the obvious, it's testament to Pritchard's talent that he can throw together something this fresh out of standard-issue parts.