A cool wind brings green, noxious fumes over the crest of the hills. As the clearing opens, a faint pulse grows into pounding battle drums and, suddenly, an amplified guttural scream howls in the distance. Illuminated before you, basked in piercing light, is a grotesque metropolis. Welcome to the ork city—the expanded universe of DJ David Goblin.
Barely a fortnight has passed since we were bludgeoned by our first taste of Belgian producer and PRR! PRR! label head DJ David Goblin’s brutish, squigpipe-infused, and “gobilinized” vision of hardcore dance music (which you can read about in this profile). Cloaked in mystery yet methodical and detail-driven, the anonymous producer had crafted an alternate reality, complete with references to trading cards, board games, and bits of fantastical lore to explain every production and aesthetic decision he’d made. Emblazoned with a cheeky Warhammer 40K goblin DJ on the cover and released on his own imprint, 2018’s Ork Muzik felt like some strange practical joke being played on the dance music scene—but it also felt like a revelation.
The release of Ork Muzik embodied a seismic shift in the club music landscape. At a time when underground dance music is dominated by increasingly austere, serious, and tenebrous music—not to mention the elitism among a fanbase concerned with being cool enough and having obscure enough taste to fit in—DJ David Goblin’s embrace of genres that are perhaps in “bad taste” embodies a sense of playfulness and mischief that’s been fading from the scene. Ork Muzik steered the scene towards a future where such music is allowed to explore the full spectrum of tongue-in-cheek, self-referential humor, all the way from pop and EDM to bordering-on-cringy folklore themes.
At the first squelch of “Squigpipe”, I remember marvelling at Goblin’s painstaking commitment to his self-conceived mythology, down to each croaking, warlock detail. I laughed at myself for being so enthralled, but it was fresh; I couldn’t look away—and I wasn’t the only one.
David Goblin’s blood-curdling howl was felt and echoed by collectives and parties around the world. Two such collectives are New York’s Mind Club—which vandalizes the covers of its frenetic, percussive club, lento violento, and rap bootleg releases with messy graffiti—and London’s Planet Fun—who prefer to embellish their EDM and donk-infused experimental #bangers with stark word art and emojis. At first glance, the two groups have little in common, but they share a couple key traits: a desire to force dance music out of its self-serious rut, and a heavy influence from Ork Muzik. So when DJ David Goblin called, artists from both camps, alongside others from the burgeoning experimental club scene, lent their voices to build out his grotesque vision. In other words, The Horde was assembled.
DJ David Goblin & The Horde’s Ork Muzik 20K isn’t the second DJ David Goblin album. Instead, The Horde’s leader (whose “ego bar has [already] been filled”, as he puts it) lets his faithful disciples take center stage. “They feel the Ork Muzik spirit,” he says. With little direction from the Goblin himself, The Horde’s tracks started flowing in, showcasing just how diverse that spirit is.
Listening to the album, you’re transported, not just to a singular ork club but to an entire city, where the music on the street, blasting out of car stereos or in the clubs is different…but still undeniably ork. “The first Ork Muzik was really ‘first degree’. I took some World of Warcraft voices and made a really an orkish universe, but it was really the first degree of the idea. Now I want something more subtle,” says Goblin. For him, going beyond the obvious sonic cues was key to building his universe. There are few direct references to the world of Warhammer 40K or J.R.R. Tolkien’s Mordor on 20K; instead, The Horde’s artists pull elements from their varying backgrounds to showcase the ork inside all of contemporary music.
Listen closely, and you begin to hear the connections between Korn singer Jonathan Davis’ animal grunts and Lil Jon’s trademark “YEEEEAAAAAHHHHHH!” The vibe is mirrored in the beats, which pull from ‘00s-era club and party tunes, turn up their raunchy attitude and coat them with a thick layer of green slime. Goblin theorizes, “I’ll be walking in the street and think, ‘Wow, that is so ork. That door is so ork. That car is so ork. That space is so elf.’ It’s the same with music.” Prompted with the obvious next question (“What does elf music sound like?”), he takes a moment, then responds, “Deep house. No, micro house.” Fair enough.
Tera Octe’s lead single, “Blazin’”, is essentially updated ‘00s hip-hop, complete with dramatic string stabs and Timbaland-esque melodic flares, just with orks doing all the rapping. When I mention its similarities to ‘00s southern hip-hop subgenre crunk, I receive an immediate, enthusiastic response: “Crunk, yeah. That’s totally music for orks. It’s warrior music. The strings and the vocals are intense. It’s war.” The same could be said for hardstyle, another of the album’s recurring influences. Whether cranked up to breakneck speeds in Estoc’s “Skrap Yardz Tool” and B-Ball Joints’ “Joint 3” or slowed down to fit Abby’s lento violento stylings in “Knok Knok Razor Dok”, hardstyle’s pounding, overdriven kicks just feel so…right.
Mind Club head DJ NJ Drone’s contribution, “Globz Muck Syn”, feels the least “goblinized” of the bunch. How well NJ Drone’s twisted, whining synth lines and nimble rhythmic programming fit the bill for a cranked-up ork club track, however, only proves how expansive this universe and its underlying themes can be. Plus, it slaps.
While the project is devoid of any true ambient tracks, cuts like Hajj’s “Pour Mes Kheys” and B-Ball Joints’ “Joint 3” offer breaths of fresh air. “Pour Mes Kheys” is the album’s quietest moment, but it drags the listener deeper into the world than any other track. Stripping away the gloss and energy of the album’s club tracks, it reveals a much more honest, and altogether more sinister, scene—one characterized by the unsettling ambience of rolling thunder, ominous horns and unexpected snarls. This and the dystopian commercial segment at the front of “Joint 3” show the fantastical vision moving outside of the confines of functional or “fun” club music, painting a picture of a deeper, more expansive world.
And then there’s “Tha Rock”. Daniel Deluca’s anthemic closer is equal parts Daft Punk and Deadmau5 overlaid with goblin-themed lyrics delivered in the style of Keith Flint (seriously). It’s without a doubt one of the most entertaining tracks you will hear this year, but take a bit of advice: It’s worth listening to the whole project before its triumphant finale. Maximize your satisfaction.
Ork Muzik 20K is defined by an unparalleled level of commitment to high-definition, cinematic ugliness and absurdity—and that doesn’t stop with the music. The album’s stomach-churning undulating synths and cheap samples are mirrored in its cover art, a sculpture designed by former Games Workshop employee Tim Ryan that lovingly places a goblin atop a heap of trash, cigarette butts and nitrous canisters. The physical edition, which pays homage to trading cards and collectables, comes in a hard plastic case wrapped in caution tape, which you remove to reveal a glistening red engraved CD and exclusive art book that expands on the universe of the album.
Since the release of Ork Muzik, DJ David Goblin has refused any offers to play live. But until recently, he was set to premier Ork Muzik 20K at a now-postponed collaborative edition of London’s Planet Fun party. Less a fantasy cosplay event and more a celebration of the very real modern ork, the party was planned as a meeting point for the disparate arms of this absurdist club scene. “We were planning to wear steampunk goggles,” he says, continuing, “and Daniel has a huge Crazy Frog that’s really nice to throw. We were going to dress it in ork jewels and put it on the booth.” Planet Fun head DJ Fingerblast was even planning on serving green-tinted “ork beer”. Without giving too much away, when asked about the plans for his debut set, the Horde leader cracks a smile before admitting to his plans of playing “a lot of Dirty Dutch”—armed with a sizable artillery of orkish samples, of course.
The mission of Ork Muzik 20K isn’t to create an alternate reality; it seems driven to show us a side of our own. “These are humans making ork music. It’s in our lives, in our cities. It’s like the burning reality, our reality,” says Goblin. He doesn’t seem to want to apply meaning, just to show that anyone, even those completely ignorant of the fantastical narratives in Warhammer of World of Warcraft, can recognize the ork feeling in their own lives, “so long as you can put your head into this alternative universe.”
DJ David Goblin & The Horde’s Ork Muzik 20K is out now. Listen to the album above, and head over to the PRR! PRR! Bandcamp to support the projekt here.
Published May 15, 2020. Words by Zach Tippitt.