A Journal Of The Dark Arts
Been meaning to post about this since it came out, back in March. Since Planet Mu has just released their second collection of Nick Edward chunes this year, Four Track Mind, which i will be covering for our good friends Freq Magazine, i thought i’d take the opportunity to re-familiarize myself with this gem, to speak with more authority about 4 Track, and Ekoplekz’s music in general.
To regular denizens of Forestpunk, Nick Edwards needs little introduction. His combination of hand-made electronica, radiophonic soundscapes, often laid down straight-to-tape, eked out of an esoteric array of cheap boxes, could practically be the national anthem, or perhaps patron saint, of what Forestpunk stands for – the blurring of the lines, high art in a folk fashion. Nick Edwards uses his bizarre array of loopers, flangers, mixers, synths and sequencers like some animistic druid, poring over his knobs and dials like an alchemist with his scrolls, or a diviner over sheep guts. Being of electronic origin, his music brings to mind clubs and dancefloors, but these are not bangers (although they do bang, at times). Similar to the last Time Attendant record, Bloodhounds, Ekoplekz’s music seems to conjure both images of the city and the rave, as well as the inevitable stumble home, in this case, down rural country lanes. When taken in conjunction with the junkshop pagan electronics of Hacker Farm, and many others, it begins to seem that a cultural movement is in bloom.
Ekoplekz’s music occupies an intersection between the noisy and abstract, and populist club anthems. It’s dance music, sort of, but of the most fucked variety – music for shambling, for rocking in the corner as well as in the big room. On Unfidelity Nick Edwards employs his traditional arsenal of dub boxes, rhythm machines, and gloopy, glistening, atonal electronics, but in this instance Planet Mu label-head Mike Paradinas, drawing upon decades of DJ experience, helped to cherrypick and sequence the highlights, leaving 11 tracks of some of Ekoplekz’s greatest music to date. All the better to convert the uninitiated, especially in conjunction with the eye-dripping album artwork.
True to it’s name, Unfidelity still features Edwards’ tape saturated pond scum sound quality, but it sounds deeper this time, somehow, fuller – like it got a right and proper mastering job. This could be a dangerous thing, as it takes us one step closer to an Ekoplekz global invasion. I, for one, would welcome the Dalek on-slaught – i’ve already made the proper incantations and supplications, sacrificing soldered cables on an altar during a gibbous moon, while burning salvia and copal resin.
Unfidelity could be looked upon as a time capsule of his native Bristol, over the span of 30 years or so, as post-punk, sci-fi dystopian electronics, meet that cities obsession with dub culture, and some avant-garde microelectronic club music, to boot. This seems to suggest to me, at least symbolically, a return to futurism, a reclaiming of the sci-fi of the ’70s, even if they are paranoid and full of dread, sometimes. These voyages seem to inherently recall shuttling away into hyperdrive, into some unknown planet’s stratosphere, like an alternate soundtrack for a Rene Laloux film.
My favorite thing about Ekoplekz’s music in general, and Unfidelity in particular, is the gradual, evolving, almost organic structures, so different from what you find in most electronic music, and most music, period. Without getting too reminiscent or maudlin, there seems to have been a severe cultural backlash against ‘droney’/’soundscape-y’ music. There was a feeling, during the heyday of the music blogs (2005 – 2007, say), when it seemed like anybody could post their music and have it heard by it’s acolytes and advocates. There was a goldrush sensibility, as everyone strove to hear it all, share it all, and to have their message heard. ‘Drone’ music was quite de-rigeur, and it was happening at a time when I was finally getting my hands on some instruments and equipment, and learning how to use them. You were as likely to find recordings of ants feasting on a corn-cob, or someone’s neighbor’s dog barking for 20 minutes, as you were to hear top-40 pop.
And then, all of a sudden, there was a sea change, and it seemed that the world simultaneously adopted the phrase, and the attitude, “another bullshit drone record,” as can be seen on Emeralds’ Bullshit Boring Drone Band, who decided to own that shit.
And while i’ve seen countless scenes come and go, this drift seemed to hurt me more deeply and more personally than almost any other. My personal aesthetics gravitated towards the often cheap grayscale xeroxed aesthetic, coming from a punk and noise background, and i have an archivalist’s tendency to want to hear everything, and never stopped listening to bizarre field recordings, sound collages, and ephemeral archives. If anything, my love for droning music and soundscapes has deepend, as i’ve learned to relax and listen more deeply. But the world’s moved on, and it seems that even the punks and noise freaks are still jamming out to Miley Cyrus and Beyonce (who i like also), even if it is ironically.
That’s why i’m grateful for Ekoplekz, and a certain batallion of electronic experimenters who don’t let things get too lean and clean, too precise. In the process, i’m hoping that they will continue to open up the electronic spectrum to obscure and interesting rhythms and textures, because, after all, there’s more than one way to dance, and countless reasons for doing so.
This pair of LPs (Four Track Mind is great also) are some of Nick Edward’s best yet, although in this scribe’s opinion it is all essential, to the point o being canonical. If you are not yet familiar with his work, this is a great place to climb on board, and dive down the gravity well of abstract, avant-garde dance and electronic musicks.
Ekoplekz – Unfidelity