Starkey is the moniker for Philadelphia-based DJ and producer Paul Geissinger. In a world filled with siren-clad SoundCloud trap tunes, Starkey opts for a display of musicianship on his new album, Orbits. Complete disregard for the status quo is the theme here, and it makes for one of the most appealing records of the year–a concept album based on broken-beat bass music and melodic interludes.
While parts of the album sound like Amon Tobin became obsessed with TNGHT, others play out more like Daft Punk’s Tron Soundtrack. This futuristic, melodic take on bass music is so captivating and unique that it rises like cream in a world of too many milk cartons. It is different enough to catch your ear, but with enough familiarities that it isn’t going to scare you away.
Let’s talk variety. The end of “Lzr” is the hardest beat you’ll hear all day, but the following track “Synchronize” sounds like the opening music for a Matrix film. “Thugs” dives in to a garage beat, but “Crashing Sphere” sounds more like Explosions in the Sky than anything on Ultra’s line up. And let’s be honest, who wants to listen to 808s and lightning-fast high hats for 55-minutes straight? Lex Luger might, but this guy doesn’t. Starkey understands the concept and breaks his funky-ass street bass beats with these spaceship interludes for what is the most intriguing album I’ve heard all year.
And speaking of spaceship, there is wonderfully galactic about this album: an abstract concept that lurks within each beat and melody. With few words audible in the album, it may not be as clear as The Wall, but the distinct sounds matched with song titles “Renegade Starship,” “The Shuttle,” and “…and Then God Built the Cosmos,” it is clear Starkey is taking you on a journey. As each epic interlude builds on the previous onslaught of trapstyle dubstep, you dive deeper into the Orbit.
The conclusion of our journey, “Distant Star,” is the epic ending to the ultramodern album. Starkey saved his longest song, complete with violins and wicked synths, for last. A couple minutes of build lead to the only 4×4 beat the album sees. The bouncy garage vibe brings that feeling of going home after a long journey. You know when you’ve been gone for a month and you’re dying to see that special somebody? And you’re so close you can taste it? That is “Distant Star.” Buckle up and enjoy the rest of the ride, the burst into Earth’s atmosphere is soon here.