A Journal Of The Dark Arts
On Nexus Points, his first for Dutch label Mirror Zone, Portland’s Production Unit Xero finds the sweet spot between ambient, dark ambient, and minimal techno.
Electronic music can be a strangely cloistered, hermetic world. DJs, DJ nights, and charts are still often a one-genre affair despite the fact that barely anyone just listens to one type of music. Even in the year of our Lords and Ladies 2022, you’ll still get Techno DJs, Trance DJs, House DJs. Maybe it’s just easier to get noticed that way? Perhaps open-ended, freeform, and eclectic DJ sets are simply harder to put together so they flow seamlessly?
Whatever the reason, much electronic music remains stuck in the past. Which isn’t the best place for a genre famously concerned with the future.
In light of these restrictions, Nexus Points is a battle cry, a high water mark, and a template for forward-thinking producers and DJs who aren’t afraid of blurred boundaries and messy lines.
Blurred boundaries are actually one of the inspirations for Nexus Points. As stated in the liner notes:
A new doorway into different realms.
Moments and locations throughout space.
Guided through my dreams, state of heightened awareness, synchronicity and in times of high novelty. Taking us beyond mundane space and reality.
Limited space, between sleep and waking, life and death, love and hate, order and chaos.Production Unit Xero – Nexus Points liner notes
This is part of what makes Nexus Points so successful, as an album, and so exciting for those of us not too keen on unnecessary limitations. Electronic music thrives when it says something unique and personal rather than merely imitating their record collection. I’d much rather hear someone attempt to describe their inner life – their thoughts and hopes and dreams – than the most technically gifted reconstruction.
Theory and concept don’t, ultimately, have a lick to do with why Nexus Points is such an achievement. Electronic music fans with big ears and an open mind don’t have to hunch over liner notes to appreciate the seamless transition from beatless ambient, like album openers “Hymn To Orlandre,” with its shimmering aurora-like drones, and “Reiatsu,” which sounds like a thunderstorm over Blade Runner‘s Los Angeles, into the cleanroom minimal techno of “Mechanus,” when the beat drops for the first time in earnest.
Poetic and personal as the inspiration for Nexus Points may be, sonically, it’s not without precedent. Mid-2000s ambient techno, such as Loscil; mnml, such as the Clicks and Cuts series; and IDM, especially Autechre, are obvious touchstones. These are, in our opinion, some of the high points of the first 100 years of electronic music, so you know Production Unit Xero is in good company.
Production Unit Xero’s Ramon Mills has clearly been benefitting from working on the Telanus series for his own Heterodox Records – a series of soundtracks and soundscapes for his tabletop gaming campaigns. Nexus Points works beautifully as ambient atmospherics for anything from cyberpunk to dreamy sci-fi surrealism, like on “Reiatsu” which sounds like a Zen raingarden floating in anti-gravity, to magical mythological realism, like on album highlight “Syrens Of Styx” which sounds like the ethereal cry of seductive spirits as heard beneath dark waters. .
It benefits just as much from an exquisite mastering job courtesy of Episodes from outerspace, which makes the breathless acts of genre-blending possible. Production Unit Xero’s unique blend of ambient and futuristic beats have never sounded better.
Which is good timing, as this is one of Production Unit Xero’s highest-profile releases to date. It’s his first for Optic Portland, a new sub-imprint of the Netherlands’ Mirror Zone records. Nexus Points even got a glowing review from Resident Advisor. Richly deserved it is, as well. If you’re a regular reader of these pages, you’ll know we’re long-standing fans of Production Unit Xero going waaay back. It’s beyond thrilling to see Mills’ music, and the Portland underground electronic music scene, get the attention it deserves on a global level.
Nexus Points is out now on Mirror Zone Records.Nexus Points by Production Unit Xero