It's an understatement to say that Geoff Barrow has stayed busy outside of his Portishead duties. Not only did he make time to produce albums by the Horrors and Anika, but early 2012 saw the release of another album from his band Beak> and of two other very different but equally successful projects: Quakers, an underground hip-hop collective that made his fondness for crate-digging more explicit than it had been since Portishead's early trip-hop trailblazing days, and Drokk, a collaboration with composer Ben Salisbury. As the title Drokk: Music Inspired by Mega-City One suggests, this is an imaginary soundtrack (or "outsider's perspective," as the duo described it) to the long-running cult comic strip Judge Dredd, which spawned the Sylvester Stallone movie of the same name and began appearing in the British sci-fi anthology 2000 A.D. in 1977. As a celebration of the strip's 35th anniversary, the album couldn't be more affectionately geeky: Salisbury and Barrow recorded most of the soundtrack with a vintage 1975 Oberheim 2 Voice Synthesizer, which gives the soundtrack an authentic late-'70s feel that channels John Carpenter's spare, creepy synth-based scores, especially Escape from New York. Drokk's mix of dead air, dark, viscous analog synth tones, and thrumming arpeggios is hypnotic and intense but never too claustrophobic -- like any good soundtrack, this album is more about creating a mood than calling attention to itself. More fleshed-out pieces such as "Helmet Theme" and its reprise, "Clone Gunman," "Miami Lawgiver," "The Men Who Never Learned," and the Beak> cameo appearance "Inhale" are buoyed by evocative snippets that seamlessly create and capture not just the feel of Judge Dredd, but the sci-fi music of the comic's beginning era. Drokk: Music Inspired by Mega-City One is a completely satisfying project on its own, but it's also so good that it practically cries out for a film to be made to fit its cues.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares