Debut albums can be a tricky proposition, even for a producer whose name isnít a completely blank slate. As an artist, you know that your debut is going to set the precedent for everything that follows. If you make a really noticeable statement, whatever comes next will be judged in its shadow. If you do OK, then youíll have room to impress later down the road. But anyone checking out your debut will have nothing with which to frame it, aside from its context.
In the case of Leeds-based producer Jack Sparrow, we have the pseudonym ó a dodgy call, given the comedic pirate character who immediately comes to mind ó and the label. Tectonic, headed by dubstep heavyweight Pinch, places Circadian within a set of expectations that are partially met, but Jack (a.k.a. R. Gath) does take some detours of his own.
Unexpectedly, the album isnít at all afraid to stray from the provinces of dubstep, and often delves into house and techno territory. Thatís both good and bad, and oneís opinion will clearly be based on the listenerís predilections. For this reviewer, the heavier pieces fare better ó those that lie more on the techno side tend to fall prey to rhythmic monotony. Nonetheless, the variation is mostly a positive. While the album might come off a bit like a compilation due to the stylistic shifts, I also liked the mixtape feel. The pieces flow together in such a way that you can put the whole thing on repeat and it will flow smoothly and indefinitely. There are occasional jubilant shouts that wash away amid emersive reverb, sometimes spoken words that fade into delayed echoes. But nearly all of the album consists of instrumental works, lots of clip-clop rhythms, synth bursts and hard kick drums interspersed with plenty of spacey electronics.
Circadian has a fluid style and slick production work, but lacks a palpable focus. While thatís not necessarily a bad thing for a first album, it leaves you wondering exactly who Jack is, and where heíll go from here. Despite a respectable debut, then, Jack Sparrow remains a bit of a blank slate.