EKOPLEKZ: "STALAG ZERO / DISTENDED DUB"
(Ekoplekz debut twelve on Punch Drunk drops Nov 15th.)
On "Stalag Zero" flanged data riddimsquirts navigate a snakelike flightpath through a cavernous maze of tunnels, accompanied by flashing-light blips that remind me - in the way they behave, not the way they sound - of Bit from Tron or those fretfully out-of-sorts microsaucers from Close Encounters. Oddly, though, the track creates a curious trick soundworld that's somehow both spacious and claustrophobic at the same time.
The music reminds me of the time I visited the underground WW2 field-hospital on Jersey that was built by Nazi slave-labour: mile-long corridors that disappeared into the dark; dusty, makeshift chambers that were intended to serve as 'wards' for the wartime wounded; flickering overhead lighting, slow-dripping water and trick perspectives: an oppressive labyrinth that acted as an accidental sound-carrier (you could pick up hushed conversations 50m away that made you think you were hearing voices; imaging things) and which induced a sort of self-oppositional tension within me - a mixture of intense, semi-addictive fascination ("where does this tunnel lead...? I need to know...") and a feeling of barely-submerged panic ("let me out of here!")...
Although my sad ol' reptile-brain is probably riffing on the title as much as the music, this also summons up a similar sense of labyrinthine abandonment, of navigating thru some twisted maze of archaic technology - a technology not much older than the rusting 40s pipework and surgical tools in Jersey, but one still very much alive, still ticking-over, still cycling through its unfathomable processes - an abandoned future-past - and not necessarily an alien one either; I'm picking up a sense of sad human servitude embedded in the mysterious-sounding blips, pulses and smears of sound, an afterecho of some long-forgotten intent. The exact details aren't important, but the 'feel' that I'm getting is - it's like a form of musical psychometry.
I like music that gives me a strong visual impression - it's one of my things - where the processes used to create it seem to give rise to imaginary structures that [themselves] seem to be creating the sounds heard by the listener. It's a sort of creative Moebius-loop - one that never fails to fascinate me - and Nick has managed to achieve that. Repeated listens continue to reward and open up new detail. Another plus-point is that the music is definitely 'Off-Grid' - I'm not hearing / seeing a Vst or Fruity grid of repeating beats or loops - the cyclical events created by Nick's kit are not subjected to the tyranny of quantising, a subliminal clicktrack / clinical braingrid; the flange and echo adds new curves, bends, micro-cycles and false rhythms to the piece (hence the sense of navigation and exploration invoked in the listener); it opens it up, adds quasi-fractal detail, rubs the edges off the underlying repetition, takes it Off-Grid.
Uhhh, reductive thumbnail description to leave you with: Forbidden Planet ost if it had been recorded by Cabaret Voltaire in '76-ish before they released their first EP, or maybe the soundtrack of some lost, early 70's Soviet or East German SF film.
"Distended Dub" deserves a more evocative name, I think, but it's kinda fun that it doesn't have one; it's more ominous, more overtly linear, is more of a, uh, 'tune'...
Think: The Future / early Human League but stripped right back to the bone - everything coated in a graphite 'fur'...ferrous microswarf condensing out of the air to coat the music...iron filings on a magnet...the air thickening around you - clammy, cold and metalic - darkening as the track progresses.
Music as aural cinema, a superconductor.
A single electronic-drum...an e-hammer beating out time. A countdown, a heartbeat, the factory-clock. Lives ticking away in never-ending repetition. Magnets, mag-levs, tape-drives...mindless tape-transports endlessly unspooling...ticker-tape, punchtape...swarf from a grinder...vast, endless, pointless, thankless, never-ending zombie industry...
"The uneasiness which keeps the never-resting clock of metaphysics in motion..."
Work as metaphor.