Frank Klepacki – Rocktronic

Frank Klepacki - RocktronicFrank K. is back in the house, and this time he’s kicking the doors down and knocking the walls flat. Unlike his solo debut Morphscape, Rocktronic is a little more similar stylistically from track one to track ten. And that’s cool – I loved some of Morphscape‘s more off-the-wall offerings like “Gonna Rock Yo Body” and “Cosmic Lounge”, but if Rocktronic proves anything, it’s that Frank Klepacki’s always got more musical ideas rattling around. And for those of us who learned about his music through his hard-driving accompaniment to some classic Westwood computer games (and I’d hazard a guess that this category probably includes almost everybody reading this), Rocktronic is homecoming week for you – it easily lives up to its name.

And the title should give you a pretty good clue of what to expect. Guitars are to the forefront of Rocktronic, and Klepacki demonstrates some impressive ability at that instrument. The opening volley, “Decible”, lives up to its name. The following track, “Rocktronic”, is probably the best fusion of rock and techno elements on the whole CD, with some mighty crunchy guitar work melding seamlessly with the techno elements. “Escape” feels a little bit like “Mode One” from Morphscape, only more aggressive and drum-driven, but the similarity is in some dandy throwback-to-the-’80s synth work. In Yo Face has both feet firmly in industrial/techno territory, and it’s best appreciated at a level where the speakers rumble the foundation of your house. Seriously. Headphones don’t quite do it justice.

“Take Me” has a very cool, laid back bluesy opening that leads into an extended hard rock jam on the same theme. There’s a nifty ’70s stadium rock guitar solo vibe to the whole thing. It Has Begun is more of an aggressive dance number, with the sampled voice yelling “It has begun!” Mortal Kombat-TV-ad-style hearkening back to some of Frank’s Command & Conquer work. “The Streets” and “In The Tunnel” almost sound like lost cuts from the Lexx music library, which isn’t a bad thing. The Streets has a little more of a Euro/electronica thing going, while “In The Tunnel” has the dramatic intensity of a soundtrack cue bubbling under the surface.

“Machines Collide” has an epic feel that hails back to some of the better Emperor: Battle For Dune tracks, with sampled choral textures and an interesting sonar-as-percussion element that I liked – it’s probably my favorite track on the CD, with “Take Me” running a close second. “Bring The Fight” closes things 4 out of 4out by jumping right back into hard rock territory, which brings us full circle.

On the one hand, I really missed the roller-coaster variety of styles that made Morphscape a lot of fun – but you can’t argue against Rocktronic‘s dominant style being the one that won Klepacki his fan base to begin with, and it’s still great music.

Order this CD

  1. Decible (4:32)
  2. Rocktronic (3:57)
  3. Escape (4:11)
  4. In Yo Face (3:42)
  5. Take Me (4:58)
  6. It Has Begun (4:06)
  7. The Streets (4:02)
  8. In The Tunnel (3:47)
  9. Machines Collide (4:42)
  10. Bring The Fight (4:28)

Released by: Frank Klepacki
Release date: 2004
Total running time: 42:27

Frank Klepacki – Morphscape

Frank Klepacki - MorphscapeAfter seven years of churning out the hard-hitting accompaniment for Electronic Arts’ Command & Conquer series of real-time strategy games (among others) and releasing over half a dozen albums’ worth of material attached to computer games, not to mention stints with Las Vegas bands like Home Cookin’ and Mo’ Friction, Frank Klepacki is flying solo – and proving there’s more to his repertoire than being EA’s own C&C music factory. Klepacki flexes his signature funk-techno muscle on such tracks as “Defunkt” and “Freaks From Within”, but delves into some new territory, including lounge music and even the glorious vintage ’70s throwback that is “Gonna Rock Yo Body”. In a true tribute to the roller disco era, “Rock Yo Body” features “robotic” vocoder-processed vocals, synth-string stabs, and the kind of cheesy electronic percussion you’d expect from the late ’70s and early ’80s. And the beauty of it is, it works. If you, like me, grew up during that era…this song will give you a thrill of recognition and a goofy grin. It’s good cheese, a nice little trip back to the day when Grandmaster Flash was considered new, not old-school. “Gonna Rock Yo Body” is an unlikely candidate for the best song on the whole CD, but if you’re already acquainted with Frank Klepacki’s body of game work, this track should jump out and grab you because it demonstrates what he can do outside of that genre. “Mode One” shifts into new wave gear with an ever-so-slight nod in the direction of early, pre-drenched-with-samples Depeche Mode. By the end of the album, you’ve gotten to hear so many styles and distinctive pieces that you’re not left thinking “Hey, this stuff all sounds exactly like 4 out of 4Command & Conquer!”

I’ve been lobbying for someone to tap Frank Klepacki for something more than just a short film, and I still think someone should. But he won’t hear me complain if he keeps turning out solo material too, because Morphscape rocks.

Order this CD

  1. Morphscape (5:21)
  2. Blaster (4:43)
  3. Freaks From Within (5:08)
  4. Cybertek (3:12)
  5. Mode One (4:03)
  6. Gonna Rock Yo Body (3:23)
  7. Cosmic Lounge (5:12)
  8. Morphunk (3:47)
  9. Defunkt (2:42)
  10. Virus (4:47)

Released by:
Release date: 2002
Total running time: 42:18