Steve Spacek's creative restlessness evidently cannot be quelled. After his first proper solo album, Space Shift, arrived in 2005, he released additional left-field R&B EPs, dipped deeper into avant-rap production as Black Pocket, and often worked with contemporaries, including album projects beside Katalyst (as throwback soul act Space Invadas) and Mark Pritchard (as underground club fusioneers Africa HiTech). The producer and vocalist's tracks as Beat Spacek, an alias aligned with the Ninja Tune label, are more evasive of categorization than any others he has made.
In his feature on the late J Dilla and his still-resonant productions, Nate Patrin wrote: "Dilla's productions got so busy and dense and unpredictably stitched-together that some artists who had to incorporate them into their own songs must have taken them as some kind of challenge. " He then singles out British-born singer Steve (neé White) Spacek’s "Dolar" on his lone solo album and his selection of one of Dilla’s trickiest beats, which reduces Philly soul singer Billy Paul’s "Let the Dollar Circulate" to a looped syllable and a shoe-in-drier stumble of toms. But Spacek sounded surefooted on such slippery terrain.
As long as electronic music has been a part of popular culture, its proponents—from Kraftwerk to Jeff Mills to Daft Punk—have obsessed over technology and how it reflects our ideas of the future. This used to mean envisioning a space-age utopia, but in our post-modern society, it's all become more personal and insular, something that's no doubt a result of current trends in technology. Multi-faceted London artist Steve Spacek explores this intersection of past, present and future on Modern Streets, his first LP as Beat Spacek.
Beat Spacek is the latest from Steve Spacek, a UK producer and vocalist who's been on the scene for well over a decade and has the background to prove it — from his work as Spacek to collaborations with names like J Dilla, Mark Pritchard as half of Africa HiTech and, most recently, that of Beat Spacek. Modern Streets acts as a play on itself, the album an execution of modernity, created using iPhone and iPad apps. But, as with any album born of of-the-moment apps with kitschy composition, Modern Streets almost sounds like that kid who's learned three chords on guitar and bombards family and friends with it.
Beat Spacek — Modern Streets (Ninja Tune)We’re only in February, and the trend in British dance/electronic music of using beats and synths to map the psycho-geography of the country’s inner city life has been established. It’s hardly a new concept, but rather one that gathered ahead of steam as dubstep’s emerged in the early noughties. The trend culminated in 2014 with records like Islands by LV and Josh Idehen and Actress’ Ghettoville.
Modern Streets is a curious amalgamation of low-tech electronics and high style classic soul. Made, reportedly, with iPhone apps, its buzzing, squawking beats feel woozy and pared back, like a video game soundtrack running on in the background. Yet over these minimalist cadences, the auteur Steve Spacek sings in a transcendent, fluttery falsetto that recalls psychedelic Marvin Gaye or tripped-out Curtis Mayfield.