Thursday, 6 September 2012

Nick Edwards (Ekoplekz) - Plekzationz

Back in the early 1990s, Nick Edwards began writing a blog called Gutterbreakz on which he offered up his opinions on the music which had shaped his life and the new releases that informed his current listening habits. He wrote enthusiastically about what he loved and why, he had no agenda and covered everything from obscure library music LPs to the sounds of the emerging underground. What was special about his writing was that he did it with the passion and conviction of a man who was obsessed with music for music's sake, not as some name-dropping hipster with a vinyl fetish.

I had the pleasure of discovering Ekoplekz after picking up a copy of last year's immense Memowrecks collection which was issued via Mordant Music. It contained thirty three tracks of tape saturated electronic experimentation and was an absolutely gripping listen despite it's almost two hour running time. Since then, there have been several more EPs, a few collaborations and an almighty live/studio double tape set which was released in April 2012.

From the first moment I heard Memowrecks, I was completely hooked. His reference points were upfront and explicit - Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire immediately came to the fore - but his tracks were also informed by early radiophonics and post-punk experimentation as well as dub dynamics. This was an album which easily transcended it's influences whilst retaining that raw, unstable edge inherent in so many nascent sonic offshoots.

Plekzationz is the first release to bear Edward's given name since 1994, his debut being a cassette called Controlled by Voltage Vol. 1 on Volatile Records. The reasoning behind this eighteen year gap is not apparent, nor is it clear if the Ekoplekz moniker has now been retired. There has been some conjecture that this may be an attempt to make a 'serious' statement, even pointing to the cover portrait as some kind of proof. I don't accept this rationale however, a large majority of musicians in this field routinely work under a variety of nom de plumes so why should Edwards be any different? Also, the cover painting isn't an example of simple figurative portraiture designed to cast it's subject in a flattering, media-friendly light. It clearly takes it's cues from Francis Bacon's distorted grotesqueries and creates something which is as unsettling as it is beautiful.

But, this is all empty speculation by people who should be listening to the album instead of searching for meanings behind its presentation. There are no answers to these questions, all we really have is the music and that should be quite enough to be honest.

The first major change I noted is that the album only contains four tracks rather than the more concise pieces which make up the Ekoplekz releases, each of these weighing in at around the quarter hour mark. Secondly, the overall sound of the album is quite breathtaking. After installing some new audio kit in our listening area over the weekend, it came as a bit of a shock that this would prove to be such a great test record for the equipment. Gone is the resolutely lo-fi cassette tape murk and hiss of old, this has been replaced by crystal clarity and a widescreen stereo soundstage. Edwards is obviously using the same vintage machines and broken effects as before but his production values have soared. This is a fantastic sounding record.

First track 'Chance Meets Causality Uptown' bounces a succession of reverberating high frequency tones and pulses around the mix underpinned by a loose bass guitar line which is gradually replaced by caustic drones. 'No Escape From '79' is an apt choice of title as it plots a course through similar dystopian electronic territories charted by Messrs Kirk and Mallinder thirty-odd years ago. After taking a short diversion through a series of loops, the track's coda briefly returns to another rhythm carved from primitive devices and sparse guitar lines. 'Inside The Analog Continuum' is a twisted excursion into lysergic dub effects whilst 'A Pedant's Progress' dispenses with all notions of rhythm and presents itself as a freeform sonic tangle.

This album is without doubt the finest thing that bears Nick Edward's name to date, and with a back catalogue containing such a large amount of high quality material that's some feat. It's a revelatory listen in terms of it's spectral production and the extended track times which clearly suit the nature of these four pieces, allowing them to fully develop in a way that we're unused to. Whichever moniker he chooses to release his music under, this should rightly cement Mr Edward's name amongst the luminaries of electronic music where it rightfully belongs.

Plekzationz is available over at the Editions Mego site as either a double vinyl set, CD or digital download. 

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