DJ Food is a project that has been at the heart of Ninja Tune label, yet strangely absent from the last twelve years, ever since the release of the critically acclaimed 'Kaleidoscope' album. Created as a loose collaborative effort back in 1990 with Coldcut on production and Strictly Kev on mixing duties, the project has featured as many artists as it has genres, spanning all the way from trip-hop to drum and bass. As such the return marked by 'Search Engine' is in some regards a tentative one as the musical landscape has changed drastically over the last 20 years.
Cut-up introductory track 'All Covered In Darkness (Pt.1)' gets things off to a good start with a darker than ordinary introduction that with its science fiction vocal clips establishes the theme of the album as an audible journey through the "engine" (so to speak). From there proceedings kick into an immediate groove with 'Giant' by presenting a drum beat that each of the following tracks gyrate around and build upon. The resulting effect is in a sense, a hypnotic one, induced by the almost circular motion of the tracks continuously riffing on one another.
As futuristic as the theme of the album is, the production tends to recall the 90s cut up style, exacerbated by flirting with genres as diverse as techno and garage rock. This is by no means a bad thing as the rock orientated 'Illectrik Hoax' bleeding into the bass heavy 'Sentinel (Shadow Guard) is a seamless transition that results in one hell of a drop, exhibiting just how important the craft of the DJ really is. However the old school sounds of the LP do wear a little thin in the middle, becoming unfortunately forgettable in the way that is found on the other side to the double-edged sword of mixing.
Despite this the album manages to reignite the pace introduced by the first few tracks with a heavily crafted sequence present in the last few tracks that allows the album to finish on a high. As a result 'The Search Engine' is a mixed bag overall that sadly falls short of the heights reached by 'Kaleidoscope', yet at the same time when it is really gunning for the listener it works brilliantly. In these moments the philosophy behind the DJ Food premise is clear as it is extremely engaging in the noggin region, particularly from the perspective of anyone who might spend any time behind the ones and twos.