The DJ Food moniker is a walking, talking, breathing sample. It’s deconstructed far from its creators (Matt Black and Coldcut), original purpose (a series of break-and-loop collections), and even secondary purpose (live sets). Even the guy who now uses the name is filtered through another name: Strictly Kev, neé Kevin Foakes. So we should find none too surprising the revelation that The Search Engine, his first studio LP since 2001’s Kaleidoscope, is but a repackaging of prior originality.
Much of The Search Engine comes from a trio of recent EPs for the Ninja Tune label: One Man’s Weird Is Another Man’s World and The Shape of Things That Hum, both from 2009, as well as Magpies, Maps & Moons from late 2011. Supplemented with a few new interludes and vocals, The Search Engine isn’t technically a brand new album. Really, it’s just another DJ Food mixtape.
Frankly, it needs improvement even as that, as there’s a surprising lack of imagination and oomph in the sequencing. Twenty-four of the 27 minutes of Magpies show up here. The tracks that closed One Man’s Weird, “A Trick of the Ear” and “Colours Beyond Colours,” do the same here. And the minute-long interludes, dominated by dramatic conversation samples in a Ken Nordine style, awkwardly flow into the full cuts that follow them.
This isn’t to say that the music on here is all bad. At times The Search Engine reinforces Kev’s rep for grooves of the highest order, as when “A Trick of the Ear” fits a Depeche Mode sample between spy music and boho bass jazz. He also augments rock’s flavors with the stuff. Matt Johnson of The The gets inserted atop “Giant” (from Things That Hum) and the result sounds like a spiraling DJ Food remix of a The The track. “The Illectrik Hoax,” meanwhile, is punched-up garage rockin’ with lyrics at weird British angles.
Yet it’s apparent that DJ Food is trying too hard to recapture the magic of nights spent alongside old spinning partner DK, or engaging in a turntable battle as Coldcut used to do on European radio (“Magpie Music,” versus 2econd Class Citizen, is a more abstract and trippy attempt at this). There’s too much sci-fi claptrap, and too often the music veers toward the dance-rock generics of RJD2 or UNKLE. The Search Engine perfectly—and needlessly—represents DJ Food’s quest to make older music sound new again.