A Journal Of The Dark Arts
Label: Sex Lies Magnetic Tape
Release Date: 3/13
Riyl: Pole, Throbbing Gristle, Wolf Eyes, Monoton, Regis, Hacker Farm, eavesdropping
More sounds from the concrete bunker, via Nick Edwards, sometimes known as Ekoplekz.
It seems as if Mr. Edwards must sleep in his studio, nestled in tangles of thick rubbery cables, lulled by blinking red-and-green LEDs. He’s released 12 albums and 6 eps under that guise since 2010, while recently instating the Nunton Complekz, The and Ensemble Skalectrik projects, as well. The man clearly has something to say. In a way, he is an Archetypal Noise Dude, releasing reams of semi-obscure/anonymous tape sculptures and concrete hymns, festooned with grim, gritty SF dystopian wrapping. It’s mysterious, ya know, not clouded with a bunch of personality. Yr not entirely sure WHAT’s going on, and in that, it makes you want to know more.
Ekoplekz’s music could be playing in a long, concrete fallout shelter, with blinking flickering fluorescents on the fritz, or it could be in the holographic waiting room, writing for a body to become available. Nick Edwards’ music seems ancient, archaic, yet of the future, as well. Is this the soundtrack for the archaic revival? A cyberpunk shamanism with robotic drum circles and pre-recorded prayers?
Edward’s is in love with machines. I would give one of my rotting teeth to get a look at his rig, to write down his signal chain, because it can be damn murky in here, and hard to tell what exactly the heck’s going on. You can realistically expect to hear shifting, dubby rhythm boxes, which he hand-manipulated and modifies with analog echo and delay devices, making an echoe-y dub drone that reminds me of the Stefan Betke, aka Pole’s, deteriorating machine riddims.
Another forebear whose name springs to mind is the spirit of Bryn Jones, the dearly departed Muslimgauze, who set the gold standard for fanatical home recording, a vague and shadowy agenda, and a relentless and unwavering fascination with THE BEAT and hypnotic trance riddims. Muslimgauze’s music was easier to place, however, with Jones’ almost cartoonist fixation with the Middle East and its affairs, hardwired with a corroded drum ‘n bass ethos and then blossoming out into an anenome forest of mutant buds. Ekoplekz’s music has less reference points, less acceptable signifiers, so one is forced to find one’s own descriptors, ways of relating, and actually make up for one’s self if it’s for you.
The thing with Ekoplekz’s music, and a whole breed of ashen producers, is that much of it is handmade, putting it in the noise realm, analog and irreproducable, related to experimental improvised musics of the 20th century. This is where the art gallery and the dancefloor come together, as a generation of folks reared on a whole continent of experimental sounds come to grips with all the potentialities and methods at our disposal, and decide for one’s self, and for once and for all, what you personally are trying to say.
By 2013, if one has an ear for electronic sounds, you have probably heard 10000 hours of dubstep drops, soulful beat excavation, live freakout sound manipulation, glitches, drones, breakbeats and field recordings, and it can all become a homogenous wash, so perfect inside the box, so restless in its perfection. There comes a time when you hear some ineffable, anonymous transmission from the dark side, something murky and mysterious, like a message left on a cheap answering machine tape, or a note in a book for a library. It’s like a surreal YouTube clip, or a dark alley at night; yr just not entirely sure what’s going on, and it’s up to you to investigate. In a lot of ways, Nick Edwards music is the definition of Lo-Fi, seemingly going straight to tape; 4-minute snippets of ineffable origins. But it is so much fun to wonder!
The whole point of this writing project is to figure out how to make my way in this cultural singularity we are living in, attempting to deal with 200 years of recorded media, not to mention several thousand years of writing before that, all available for inquiring minds. As i’ve mentioned in these (internet) pages before, my whole reason for getting into writing about music was to figure out how to be a musician/sound engineer/producer, all done on a zero-dollar budget, with borrowed laptops and wi-fi connections, going to preposterous lengths to transmit these sounds buzzing in my ears. As such, the way that i hear and listen to music has never intended to be objective, authoritative: i am a scholar of sounds, and i am trying to hear them all.
So the thing of it is is, WHERE TO START? What floats yr boat? I got interested in a certain sector of sounds, mainly Britiish experimental electronic music, and used that as a starting off point, to come to grips with (post)modernism, critical theory, art history, literary criticism, all tied up in a neat and infuriating knot that is difficult if not impossible to seperate, at this point. To even try something as simple as writing a record review means you have to understand 8 different musical genres, and to try and keep straight serialism, minimalism, post-punk, industrial music, drum ‘n bass and grindcore and not go a little batty is probably impossible.
So you have to take a stand against the erosion of Attention. After all, its yr only life (that yr aware of, anyway) and you can only listen to one piece of music at a time. Are you listening? Are you really hearing it? Are you picking up what the artist is trying to say?
It’s difficult to say precisely what Nick Edwards and his contemporaries are saying, exactly, (it’s like on the tip of the tongue), but their music sure seems to conjure visions. Ekoplekz releases a shit ton of music, and illustrates nicely the other (ANOTHER anyway) component of this writing project. To give time and attention to worthy albums, as art artifact, as time capsule, as journal and love letter. There’s a billion albums out there, and some musicians that release millions out there, so its nearly impossible to know where to begin, to not waste yr time, to not be mislead. It becomes increasingly essential for writer’s to act as tourguides to the blackened afterlife of experimental releases, and report back their findings. For some odd reason, i took upon the task of trying to describe sounds, or it took me to task, rather, so the mission is simple. To apply language, to try and describe some of the endless array of creativity that is out there. I have no training in this of any kind, other than a decade and a half reading the internet, magazines, and any books that i could find, that had anything in any way dealing with music. It’s all kind of a mad jumble, i’ve been progressing like a GO game, but the center is rising and it all starts to make sense.
It’s all about coming to the center, to an appreciation and awareness of yr own life. Music can either be banal and distracting, or it can be the most holy, inspired thing you’ve ever heard in yr life. It can be the gateway to magick. But you have to let it, you have to give it the time of day (or night). I can’t precisely say what it is, other than i am obsessed with EKOPLEKZ’s music, and 2 dozen others that are happening, as we speak, and it is opening gateways to creativity in my own mind, that is giving way to answers i’ve been seeking a lifetime.
So what about DEVESHAM DUB? What does it sound like? Difficult to surmise, to say easily. It’s 16 tracks, and was originally laid to tape by Sex Lies Magnetic Tape in March, before quickly morphing into Ensemble Skalectrik and releasing Trainwrekz to much praises, on Edition Mego. Devesham Dubs could be seen as warming up for the main event, if not for the fact that most, if not all, of Nick Edward’s music is improvised, the man jamming with his machines down in his basement, and then doing some form of processing and post-production, adding further layers of degradation and grit. As such, it seems like Ekoplekz’s music may be of a whole, interchangeable, and i don’t yet possess enough information to report how he has been progressing as an artist, over the duration. I intend to find out. But for now, i would say that most of the material on Devesham Dub consists of minimalist percussion, of the analog rhythm machine variety, run through a bevy of makeshift guitar boxes (in a real vintage dub conqueror kind of way), with some antiquated synth textures over top, but you won’t find much in the way of melody or harmony here. These are more like Sci-Fi dream sequences, mood music that also would work in adventurous dance clubs (if yr clientele are cool, anyway). I am reminded of the works of the ’80s band Monoton, whom i have only just gotten into, with very clean, precise hardware rhythms that seem to go on forever, in the endless futuristic spirit of Detroit techno. This is cyberpunk, see, this is industrial. All the skinny puppy kids never really went away, as Witch Haus has reminded us.
The one last touchstone i will leave you with is the legendary Wolf Eyes, who have plied their brand of rustbelt horrorshow over 15 years and hundreds of releases, many of which they have released themselves on their very own Hanson Records. It seems like Nick Edwards has something similar in mind: he just wants to jam, man. He wants to make his records, and people can buy ’em if they want, but he’s too busy moving FORWARD. It seems like he is leaving behind an engrossing soundworld of CCTV and burned-out cars in a back alley, John Carpenter meets Derreck May to ward off a demon infestation. It stands at a crossroads of arthouse futurism, degraded SF, dub, techno, industrial, and improvised musicks, and finally, we meet.
Ekoplekz’s music can lead you to all kinds of good shit, to get lost in for days and weeks at a time. It’s like living in a Tarkovsky film.
very much recommended.