When Photek--the most frequent nom de computer of reclusive London drum 'n' bass phenom Rupert Parkes--released the EP The Hidden Camera in the summer of 1996, it set a new high-water mark for the rapidly expanding dance genre. Although Parkes sampled individual beats, he conceived and programmed every one of its dizzyingly complex rhythms. And though he'd often been cited for helping to bring jazz--via fluffy synth washes and watered-down fusion ideas--into the mix on earlier releases, The Hidden Camera actually hinted at jazz's complexity, developing each piece with rigorous but ever-evolving beat patterns, liquid bass tones, and ominous sound effects. It was at once musically exhilarating and emotionally foreboding, and suddenly, virtually every drum 'n' bass effort that had preceded it sounded like child's play. So Parkes was all but guaranteed to buckle under the weight of expectations for Photek's debut album, last year's Modus Operandi (Astralwerks). Most of the new stuff on it (it included some previously released material) sounded like pale imitations of The Hidden Camera, and when he tried something different, like the techno-flavored "124," the results were disappointingly bland. Just out is Form & Function, two more so-so new cuts packaged with a collection of early, self-released, out-of-print works that appear both in their original forms and remixed by J. Majik, Digital, Peshay, Decoder, Doc Scott, and Photek himself. The early stuff sounds fine, but it's less sophisticated than his more recent output, and the remixes don't remedy the situation. In the past Photek has sensibly refused to promote his recordings with DJ gigs, explaining that one had little to do with the other, but for whatever reason he's changed his tune. He'll make his Chicago debut spinning records as part of a short tour sponsored by that great champion of musical innovation, Levi's. Also on the bill is J. Majik, whose Slow Motion (Infrared) lacks the stunning austerity of Photek's best work but exhibits a wider range of color and style. Friday, 10 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Norbert Schoerner.