If you can make a buffet out of seven basic flavors, then K-Rock is your chef. Starting as a breakdancer in the late '80s, Kelly Barnett's first wax releases were through Ed DMX's aptly titled Breakin' Records. From there, K-Rock started flexing his skills as a DJ and MC for England's elite boutique label Rephlex. Time and momentum collide in New Deal, where Barnett has the spotlight -- he mumbles dryly into his microphone alongside some very exciting and very plasticized electro. In a way this release is a noteworthy accomplishment by having such narrow focus, while at the same time being so committed to the material -- like knowing only two chords on the guitar, but playing the heck out of them. The dry, lazer-gun synth and tech-heavy house beats don't break much new ground, but to visit such old ground with pride has a certain charm to it. "Baby Wants to Ride" and "Black on White" both sound as classic as your first Atari system looked, and "Teflon Territory" is a nasty, wet synthesizer kiss that's as earnest as it is sloppy. The processed beats and shifting robotic undertones of "Schoolgirls' Desire" mark a high point for side two, followed by "The Fiddler" and "Memory Loop," which both ride alternating samples and loops that emphasize Barnett's skills as a mixer rather than as a composer. "Ride (The Groove)" is a remix of the opening cut to mark a close to the set -- but then what's this? A bonus 7" featuring vocals by Linda Lovelace? Four additional tracks speed by like afterthoughts at 45 rpm, establishing a few key elements of sampled grooves at scarcely more than two minutes a pop. These are confident sketches disguised as rough tracks -- rigid mechanics with a streetwise vibe. Although this double EP uses familiar sounds to establish itself, it's not to say New Deal is merely a stroll down memory lane. Barnett takes his sampler everywhere he wants, and while it doesn't always result in great songwriting, he knows a good sound enough to incorporate it into a mix. Perhaps it's in line with the Universal Indicator series in terms of basic beats with a dash of science fiction, but K-Rock goes beyond the essentials just enough to find a good enough niche -- the guilty pleasure inside everyone, made more powerful by taking itself seriously.
New Deal Review
by Glenn Swan