Parkes' relative silence throughout most of the '00s was broken last year with the Avalanche and Aviator EPs on his Photek Productions label. This new outlook hinted at the icy electronics of fellow Metalheadz veterans Source Direct and the dubstep-techno hybrids of Pinch; and with the release of Photek's Closer EP on Pinch's Tectonic label another signpost towards this new direction was planted, a sound he explores in depth on his contribution to the DJ-Kicks series.
Photek's selections here all point towards a man still more at home in his own cerebellum than a club. It's not just the meditative tempo, for while dubstep's basslines might normally be designed to physically punch, on tracks like Kromestar's "In 2 Minds" or the Boddika remix of Photek's own "101" the low-end sounds more like repressed memories bubbling to the surface.
The mixing seems intended to toy with your subconscious, particularly when he blends in suggestive hints of his new track "No Agenda" over the hypnotic house of Baby Ford and Eon's "Dead Eye" without ever letting it fully drop. And while—post-Burial—the rave requiem conceit is now as clichéd as hearing "My Way" played at a wake, Sepalcure's "Taking You Back" unavoidably evokes rave's last rites as a diva sample is dropped into an echoing pit. Yet while this mix is missing anything as technically awe-inspiring or individual as Photek's '90s drum & bass work, it's also devoid of the same sense of clinical detachment, replaced instead with a more human and emotional touch, discernible in the plaintive vocal sample of Synkro's "Look At Yourself." Photek's DJ-Kicks might sound like a long, dark night of the soul, but at least a soul is there.