Review Summary: Also known as: 'When I look At You' plus a few other ditties
Working under the moniker of Emalkay, Martin Knowles must feel a little like the proverbial sheep in wolves clothing. I don’t think anyone could have predicted the dubstep success story that ‘When I Look At You' became, least of all Martin himself, and you get the impression that he’s spent the last two years desperately trying to move away from the runaway juggernaut that that track became. And yet looking at Emalkay’s output post-’When I Look At You’, you get the sense that Knowles just wasn’t equipped to deal with the sudden fame that was thrown his way, that perhaps, maybe he even lacked the necessary equipment to provide a reasonable follow-up. Being the owner of one of the most memorable tracks to grace a genre can be as exciting and humbling for an artist just as much as it can be daunting. The real trick lies in being able to pull it off again, to hit the same notes and land the right beats one more time. Whether or not Emalkay is merely the poster boy for “right time right place”, there’s no definitive explanation as to why he hasn’t been able to duplicate the success again. For all its insistent and energetic qualities, Knowles’ flagship number is, to be brutally honest, as simplistic as it can possibly get. The crux of the song lies in its ability to sweep the listener away in a live environment, hence its entry into every respectable dj’s set.
But Emalkay has made a career out of being the simple simon of his genre, the lurker hiding in the corner bravely continuing on in the shadows of his more illustrious peers. He’s made a living out of providing club-goers with tracks to dance the night away with little or no substance that wash away in the morning like a distant hangover. In that regard, he’s proved to be one of the more consistent members of his scene, his tracks mildly flirty and distantly intoxicating but never quite reaching the heady highs we’ve come to expect from a genre that’s been turned into a Saturday night frivolity. His production is impeccable to a degree, but he lacks any true finesse, he hides behind tried and true paradigms put to better use by artists still waiting for the hype train to come knocking at their door, musicians with ‘When I Look At You’s of their own. But for better or for worse, Emalkay made a stand the night he dropped that tune, and while he’s made a rather lackluster attempt to reach those giddy highs again, his constant series of ep’s and 12“ releases just haven’t been enough to bring him back to that enviable status. Going for the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach, Knowles has finally opted (perhaps in a moment of benign clarity) to instead go for the jugular and attempt to numb people into submission by releasing a full album of material. A somewhat wise move, as any betting man would put odds on the fact that there should be at least one track available to fundamentally knock Emalkay’s pride and joy off its golden pedestal. The sad reality however, is the golden goose of his back catalog, that one fuck
in track that should have been left in the past, is Eclipse
’s only real saving grace.
The inclusion of ‘When I Look At You’ provides the album’s eclipse in a way that Emalkay probably wasn’t hoping for though. For an artist who has struggled to become more than a mere one hit wonder, Knowles provides the ultimate head scratcher by including it here, two long years down the road. As such it dwarfs the album and ends up as the ultimate centerpiece, every other track slowly orbiting it like a glorious supernova on the brink of collapse. But while being condemned for the obvious cash-grab, Emalkay also deserves some level of praise with the tracks he provides in an attempt to counterbalance the now nightclub institution. Both ‘Fabrication’ and ‘Crusader’ return from their earlier appearances this year; the former is still a sub-par wobbler though; unsure of how heavy Knowles wants his bass intrusion to be he unwisely cranks everything down a few notches too far, with the end result an uncomfortable mix of casual dubstep stereotypes that end up existing in lost space. However the latter is a small victory and another prize example of a simple yet effective immersion, with his off-kilter backbeats sounding like they’ve been plucked out of any smoky warehouse transformed into a dancefloor gateway from the early 90‘s.
The early jungle stylings of drum & bass become a recurring theme on Eclipse
with ‘Keep Going On’, ‘Flesh & Bone’ and ‘True Romance’ all suffering from a retro disposition. Sadly though, Emalkay lacks the chops to pull this style off convincingly, his obvious love for early breakbeat hardcore notwithstanding, he fails to fully adapt himself into this new environment. He even attempts to merge his wobble-heavy approach into the mix on ‘Keep Going On’, the end result is nothing more than an obnoxious series of squeals that wouldn’t sound out of place at a Skrillex gig. He falters even more though at what he does best, with the likes of ‘Space Hopper’ and ‘The World’ coming across as nothing more than exercises in how to draw out a bassline to its inevitable breaking point. And then of course there’s ‘Metropolis’ where he loops the same line for four minutes straight; as if to apologize for this lack of anything worthwhile he then stumbles his way into a skit which awkwardly segues into his show-stopper, the curtain call that comes out about two songs too soon.
Perhaps the reason why Emalkay has become a constant devotion for so many is due to the fact that no one’s ever bothered to delve a little deeper into his work, or bothered to look beyond the one-time anthem he gave the world. Either way Eclipse
does nothing to help his rising star except give people another way to hear one really good track, and being a long player that’s widely distributed he’ll probably succeed in his quest at converting a few more unlikely followers. As an introduction to dubstep Eclipse
is by no means a terrible way to begin an education, but it’s also an offering that fails to hold up after scrutiny. But for a genre that prides itself on making as much noise as possible and converting nightclubs into mosh pits, Emalkay’s debut long player will undoubtedly find itself a home to spin its wares. Just hope that it’s far away from you.