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Ekoplekz – Cassettera

Planet Mu

Ekoplekz - CassetteraCollecting together ten orphans and excursions from this year’s Bioprodukt LP, Ekoplekz‘s Cassettera is of course only available physically as a limited-edition cassette (but can be downloaded form the usual places too).

Cassetera favours the grittier aspects of Ekoplekz’s sound over the sometimes brighter and even cheery resonances of Bioprodukt. The latter is an album that could switch easily from chipper acid to dubwise electronica to chiptune retro video game bleeps while allowing for hissier spaces in between, making for a steadfastly pleasant listen, even as Nick Edwards held fast to his lo-fi grounding in grit and gristle. While audibly from the same sessions, here things diverge from the norm, harking back further to the Monotribe and Monotron days of murkier releases like the febrile Memowrekz  or the splendidly noisy Intrusive Incidentalz volumes from pre-Planet Mu days (when plenty of Ekoplekz release arrived in cassette form too, naturally).

This is part of Ekoplekz’s charm, of course, and Edwards dishes a complementary set of equally and sometimes heftier tracks on Cassetera. Opener “Bass 2 Dank” is a case in point, its titular low end pumping out at a steady rate of kick-drum metronomy while sparkling treble spasms fly off the handle and into the wistful sprigs of melodic interest, the whole oozing a warm charismatic oddity among its extended repetition. There’s the expected quotient of haunted squittering and squarping, tinny analogue drum machine hits and Cabaret Voltaire dub (if without the dramatics), touched off with clockwork house and heaving bass tonic sloshing around some gin fizz electronics.

The ever-present ghost of dub production holds sway here, with deft technique applied as much to the layering and liquidising as to the delayed handclap trails and melancholy melodies that flutter and rise, in and around the (semi-)ceaseless propulsion and echo propagation. What takes an Ekoplekz production into the realms of the superlative is that timeless willingness to keep the hiss when the hiss is good (or maybe just inevitable, given the nature of some of the electronics here), to let the levels on a bass drum stay slightly in the red while not always worrying overmuch that an oscillator’s detune has drifted, occasionally quite woozily. This is music where the accidents can make it happier as well as darker, slightly at odds with uptight normality and the over-reliance on precision and sheen that populates so much electronic music.

Not that Ekoplekz doen’t hold his tunes together with a conviction sometimes even bordering on the brash here. “Mashdown” steps adroitly in off meters and motions, ruffing up and rinsing out the rhythms in preparation for the hovering sprites of the ominously titled “Nitrate Abuse” as they fracture and fray among stultified percussive loping, almost abandoned to trudge its own lonely path while the treble gets to have all the excitement and grab all the attention.

While “The Imperative” is perhaps where Edwards is at his most retro-skiffy soundtrack, all primitive-sounding tick-tock stutter and space-dusted noise filtering, it’s left to the set closer to show just how much “The Outlook Is Bleak”. Churning viscerally in a sputtering spasmscape of half-coherent machine loops, dread coruscations wrestle for what space they can find on the cluttered sound spectrum with unheimlich keyboard stress and disturbed snaps of ear-shredding recoiled feedback to deliciously devious ends before an unfurlingly frazzled end. Live, this is the point where the audience would be left in stunned silence before stomping and clapping for more, and it’s a terrific demonstration of how cracked electronics can do anything and more than rock’n’roll ever could.

This leaves the question of why Cassetera wasn’t made into a doube disc with Bioprodukt, but while there might be a case made for it to have been released that way, it works quite well enough on its own merits as one of Ekoplekz’s finest albums of recent years.

-Linus Tossio-

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