- Classically deft, Philadelphian producer Starkey chose to turn his ear to street bass many moons ago—the low-end heavy sound of his home city, a genre akin to the London-centric dubstep and grime movements—and has since come to the wider world's attention, most notably via his 2008 debut album, Ephemeral Exhibits. His second long player comes on the same label, Planet Mu, but in Starkey's own words Ear Drums & Black Holes is a more cohesive work "written from scratch with an 'album' in mind."
This isn't immediately obvious. The warped and heavy basslines and their synthesized chord accompanyment on album opener "OK Luv" set a thoughtful and decidedly introspective pace, but he follows it up immediately with "Murderous Words," an aggresively moody jam that thrives off portions of swollen bass and the rhymes of Cereberal Vortex of 215TFK. That's simply Starkey's style, though. He's as adept at the basement club bangers as introspective works.
"11th Hour," for example, has a melodic progression that suddenly lifts you up, only to draw you slowly back to land on a comforting pillow of chords. Tracks like "Mutidial," "Spacecraft," "New Cities" and "Fourth Dimension" bring out the Starkey of old, combining colourful melody lines with brash and unashamed rig-busting power, while tunes like "Fidelio" and "Capsule"—the latter of which is one of the first tracks to feature Starkey's own vocals—soothe ears rather than assault them, a key part of Starkey's outside-of-club appeal.
Heavily rooted in the same hip-hop crunch as Joker, Starkey's beats lend themselves incredibly well to MCs. "Numb," featuring P Money, is among the best here, with P getting ponderous with his subject matter over big stabs. Starkey has always chosen either underrated MCs—his work on previous hit "Gutter Music" with Durrty Goodz stands out as a defining example—or unknown vocalists like Anneka, whose dulcet tones appear on the melancholy "Stars." But more importantly, he always creates something special for them, framing the human aspect with his own compositions perfectly.
Starkey's sound palette seems taken straight out of a sci-fi soundtrack, but he nonetheless makes it his own. Fusing vivid colours with tempered drums and moods, he's equally as able to appease personal musing or excite your limbs with spectacular effect.
01. OK Luv
02. Murderous Words feat. Cerebral Vortex
03. 11th Hour
04. Numb feat. P-Money
05. Stars feat. Anneka
08. Neck Snap
09. Fourth Dimension
10. Club Games feat. Cerebral Vortex & Buddy Leezle
13. New Cities feat. Kiki Hitomi
14. Pleasure Points