Beat Spacek - Modern Streets

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  • As long as electronic music has been a part of popular culture, its proponents—from Kraftwerk to Jeff Mills to Daft Punk—have obsessed over technology and how it reflects our ideas of the future. This used to mean envisioning a space-age utopia, but in our post-modern society, it's all become more personal and insular, something that's no doubt a result of current trends in technology. Multi-faceted London artist Steve Spacek explores this intersection of past, present and future on Modern Streets, his first LP as Beat Spacek. Written almost entirely with iPhone and iPad apps, the album is a collection of genre exercises that aims to recapture the sounds of Spacek's youth in '80s South East London. Most of the time it succeeds in representing the diversity of that era, even if it doesn't effectively update those sounds for a contemporary audience. Modern Streets is a melting pot of styles, not unlike a homemade mixtape. There's bleepy hip-hop ("Gotta Get Some Music"), discombobulated synth-pop ("I Want You"), mutant dub and dancehall ("I Wanna Know"), post-punk approximations ("Modern Streets"), twitchy Afrobeat ("Tonight") and variations thereof. It could all be a bit much were it not for Spacek's lean economy of sounds and a consistent arsenal of abridged drum machines. With few exceptions, each of the 13 tracks uses little more than those instruments and Spacek's thin, raspy falsetto. But despite using touchscreen devices and current software, Modern Streets' stock samples and default synth patches mostly sound retro-futuristic. You imagine Spacek had a blast making these tracks, and that energy is infectious. Like pop-leaning renditions of his Africa Hitech duo with Mark Pritchard, "There Is A Love" and "Back To School" shimmy and glide on dubwise basslines and skipping riddims. The jittery movements of tracks like "If You Are My Chalice" and "Compact N Sleep" feel disorienting at first, but quickly settle into their own hiccuping grooves and celestial sways. And though the music occasionally dismantles its source material into oblivion ("Stand Firm") or leans too heavily on outdated tropes ("In the future, the love's gonna fill the airwaves," Spacek sings on the cheesy "Inflight Wave"), it never takes itself too seriously. Modern Streets may lack ingenuity, but it works as a sincere and relatable portrayal of the artist's experience.
  • Tracklist
      01. I Wanna Know 02. Tonight 03. Inflight Wave 04. Modern Streets 05. I Want You 06. Gotta Get Some Music 07. If You Are My Chalice 08. There Is A Love 09. Stand Firm 10. Compact N Sleep 11. Back To School 12. You're The Only One 13. Alone In Da Sun