Waiter waiter, this [DJ] food is dry and unimaginative

Who (or what) the hell is DJ Food? Is he (or it) a DJ, some sort of food, or something altogether more sinister?  Confusion still reigns over whether the ‘food’ in question is a concrete or proper noun; when the project began in 1990, as a collaborative effort between Ninja Tune label founders Coldcut amongst others, it was decidedly the former – aimed at providing ‘food’ (samples, breaks, loops) for the nascent trip-hop DJ community.

These days, it seems, DJ Food tends to lean towards proper noun territory.  Strictly Kev, aka Kevin Foakes, has single-handedly adopted the moniker, with the first new album in 11 years.  DJ Food’s early releases in the nineties, the Jazz Brakes series, were invariably filed under Enthusiasts Only, jammed with 30-seconds-or-less tracks that rendered them alien to most casual listeners.  The Search Engine is a more conventional album, but to some extent seems anachronistically trapped in the fire of the nineties from whence its creator was forged, stubbornly using genteel, humdrum big-beats devoid of imagination.

It begins confidently enough, some heavy-set, DJ Shadow-esque beats from opener All Covered In Darkness suggesting sturdy things to come.  But even Shadow more or less managed to free himself from the shackles of flannel-shirted tyranny, with moves towards a grown-up, 21st-century breed of hip-hop.  No such progression is evident here: just dogmatic attachment to dull, ungratifying drum patterns.

As we move onto track 2, ‘GIANT’ – perhaps named after the giant-ness of the eight interminable trundling minutes it goes on for – one of several middle-aged guest vocalists are introduced (The The’s Matt Johnson), and thus the stage is set for what could be the soundtrack to a particularly mediocre British gangster film.  Most entries, including eleven-minute (!) Magpie Music, are chocka with stupid bloody ‘ironic’ samples that stopped being funny years before even the spectre of Lemon Jelly. A man from America talking about astronomy will not distract from your insubstantial noise.

Electronic music is a fickle beast,  and Ninja Tune stablemates like Bonobo and Amon Tobin have mostly managed to adapt to an evolving creative climate by moving with the times and adopting spikier, dubstep-informed sounds. DJ Food seems have aimed for fifteen years ago and still somehow missed. The Search Engine is harmless enough, but it’ll bore you to tears.


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