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Ekoplekz – Influkz EP

More Than Human

Ekoplekz - Influkz EPBoard a hovercraft to ride the autobahn of yr dreams on this lovely fissure from Ekoplekz, via the good sonic alchemists at More Than Human Records.

2014 has been a big year for Bristol’s Nick Edwards, following two of his highest-profile — and highest production value — releases on the braindance juggernaut Planet Mu. Mike Paradinas, AKA µ-Ziq, worked head-to-head with Edwards in sequencing the material, then presenting the material with a nice lustrous sheen of a mastering job and coating each in saliva-inducing artwork. It was Ekoplekz at his glossiest and most accessible, although the sounds in the grooves were still signature.

On the Influkz EP it seems that Ekoplekz is getting back to his roots; back to the grimy grotto of basement laboratory workstations and mossy garden sheds. It’s a relief, although I truly loved both of those Planet Mu LPs, as Ekoplekz (under a dizzying array of noms de rigueur) staked his claim in the funky and subjective world of the cassette underground, whose woollen surface texture lent the appropriate air to E’s experimental beat structures. It’s nice to hear Edwards getting back to his boxes, doing what he does best — doing what he does, and capturing the results ferricly, and unleashing the radioactive results on an unsuspecting populace.

It may be one of the most telling signs that we are living in a golden age of grimy electronica, that abstract material such as this gets a loving vinyl treatment, but MTHR have golden ears and a penchant for experimentation. They know what they’re doing.

The Influkz EP is rather slight: six tracks, busted up over two sides, clocking in around half an hour. “Fluktuate” kicks things off with a tarmac of weightless Berlin techno, effortlessly encapsulating that city’s commuter spirit with a root cellar of subtle kicks, opalescent disco high-hats and eye-crossing sequencers that suck and pull you into a state of sublimation. Sublimation is a good word for it, as a process of turning solid into gas, and “Fluktuate” does recall the ethereal techno of Wolfgang Voigt.

Edwards knows better than to merely staple a motorik groove to some handfisted acid replicas. Rather, here seems to be a man who has ingested the history and spirit of that concrete citadel and made it part of his genome, bringing to mind some recent efforts of another British kosmischer, Martin Jenkins, whose Ever Present Hum on the Tapeworm label, under the alias Pye Corner Audio, bears a similar mood and ethos to this release. The techno stops there, however, as “Riddim Autonomik” and “Ariwakz” round out the A-side with hockey rink drum machines and rinkety organs that sound somewhere in between a snake charmer in the back alleys of Marrakech on a battery-powered Farfisa and hold music in hell.

It takes almost three minutes of “Riddim Autonomik” until you realise, “Oh my God, this is dub music!” It shares the same spirit of echoic exploration and hypnotic repetition and variation, for seemingly similar motivations. Dub is all about the copies, the echoes, the space — the mimetic corruption and mutating possibilities of looping, copying and machines that go forever. Dub scientists seem like they let the faders ride them, letting the rhythms ride them like a loa, tapping into some circuitboard Swedenborgian space. In the words of Jeff Noon, from the psychedelipunk classic Vurt: “This is English voodoo.” The sound of reading futures from Earl Grey leaves at the bottom of a chipped Woolworth’s tea service, hastily dashed down on a scarred formica tabletop in a rush to the corner shop to pick up a packet of crisps.

To be totally transparent, I have hopes to name some of my own début recordings under the name This Is English Voodoo, lest you see this and accuse me of plagiarizing myself and copping Nick Edwards. When that spectral cassette DOES finally materialize, Legba willing, it WILL be copping from Ekoplekz, I can pretty much assure you ahead of time. That is the effect of Nick Edward’s music — it’s empowering. He’s a totally homemade, hand-built, self-made man that has taken his bootsale pillaging to the realm of fine fucking art, creating Merztopias from corroded drum machines and bits of string and twine.

What is most admirable and most striking is that he has taken the time and had the discipline to execute this stompbox renaissance. He employs techniques typical to the basement noise underground, hard-wired oscillators and cheap kit, but approaches it with the precision and exactitude of a mnml DJ like Richie Hawtin or Monolake. All of Edward’s grooves may be improvised, but let me assure you, there has been A LOT of work behind the scenes to get to this point. I know from reading the archives of his departed Gutterbreakz blog that he used to practice DJing every night for at least a little bit, after putting the kids to bed, and that was nearly ten years ago.

Edwards’ instincts are tight and focused, but what is so mandatory, what makes him so essential, is that as his skills and ambition have raised, his production values have not. Usually what happens with people in the noise underground is they start out with whatever shitty gear they can get their hands on and make a name for themselves, only to discard the hiss and fuzz and experimental structures to join the world of accepted forms like pop or classical music. Although it’s a highly different genre, compare the first two Iron & Wine records with everything he’s done since. I love everything Sam Beam does, but I&W are just a band now, and nothing they ever do will touch the hushed reverence of those early efforts.

But Ekoplekz keeps on keeping on. He seems to have a legitimate and abiding love for his funky, junky machines. I know that the gear and the setup is one of Edward’s main motivations to keep making music, to constantly challenge himself and keep things interesting. I’ve heard Tom Waits say the same thing, that if he knew how to play everything he would stop making music, as a lot of his inspiration comes from screwing around with new instruments. Both have a vast history of interesting sounds and have never succumbed to self-parody, the way that nearly every legacy artist does, so there must be something to this approach.

So drop this slab, and take a tour through cobwebbed rollerskate rinks full of dry ice smoke and rainbows. Take a ride down flying carpet highways and telegraph wires, and let Ekoplekz’s machine elf theta wave seances deliver you unto electromagnetic epiphany.

-J Simpson-

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