Damon Baxter, aka Deadly Avenger is a talentedman. Correction, make that a very talented man. For the Illicit Records’boss and in demand DJ has just created an album of sublime beauty and depth.What’s even more impressive is that the movie soundtrack stylings ofBaxter’s debut are the total opposite of the kind of block rockin’, genrebustin’ beats that he has become known for. Rare indeed is the producer whomatches versatility with ambition and quality.
Born in Scotland but raised in the East Midlands, Baxter’sachievement of both critical and popular acclaim seems almost effortless.His early musical diet of hip-hop was ingrained in a string of brilliantEPs released in the late ’90s. The likes of King Tito’s Gloves, theBattlecreek series and Charlie Don’t Surf were inspired slices of hiphouse breakbeat mayhem that were wild on the party spirit. This success ledto his Illicit label hosting the likes of Jadell, Richard Senand Pepe Deluxe. Major label recognition in the form of remixes forthe Manics, Travis and Stereophonics soon followed. Andso we arrive in 2002 with Baxter’s musical stock rising, and about to goeven higher with the intriguing Deep Red hitting the shelves.
To say Baxter has an ear for a tune would be an understatement. Achildhood accident left him without a sense of taste or smell, but youalmost feel this has enhanced his other senses, as Deep Red is packed withstartlingly clear, absorbing sounds. This is not to say that his earlierreleases lacked this quality, as there was always an extra depth to hisrecords that that made them stand out from the crowd. Deep Red however,takes things onto a whole new sonic level.
As befits a collection that sounds gloriously expansive, no cornerswere cut. We Took Pelham, with its regal trumpet fanfare, was createdusing a full orchestra in Budapest and most of the string parts on DeepRed were written, scored and performed rather than sampled. Consistentlygood, the standard is so high throughout that no tracks really stand out.Instead, they all evoke varying moods and images, each taking you somewhereelse. Punisher is grimily funky, the soundtrack to mean streets andvicious bar room brawls. The Quest Part 1, on the other hand, is anexciting journey into a mystical and exotic far off land. Day One, withits’ infectious guitar licks, phat bassline and laid back house dynamicstakes you to a cool, glamorous party. Lopez breeds a sense of forebodingand a smell of fear with its’ taut strings and unsettling chords.
A wide variety of movie settings can be imagined, from tender lovescenes and dark confrontations through to the most thrilling of car chases.You can tell Baxter is at home in this environment, as he handles thearrangements confidently and with an impressive lightness of touch. Thishowever, should come as no surprise given his past work and his love ofgreat soundtrack composers like John Carpenter and CurtisMayfield.
Baxter’s own opinion of his debut is tellingly accurate. “If I hadto pin it down I’d say you’re going to see a film like Seven – dark, grainy,enjoyable but not exactly happy. Music should take you somewhere else.”Indeed it should, and without a doubt, Deep Red does.