Ensemble Skalectrik: Trainwrekz (Editions Mego)
Nick Edwards has built a substantial repertoire in the last several years, much of which has revolved around his Ekoplekz project. But listening to more recent Ekoplekz efforts, it’s clear that Edwards is veering further and further away from the dancefloor into something more experimental and nightmarish. I never heard his album under his birth name (aside from a few clips) but this one is pretty fantastic. I liken the sound of Trainwrekz to the heaving, breathing, sighing electronic organisms of David Tudor, with unusual sounds squawking, chirping, and decaying in tandem, with a dash of the on-the-fly turntablism of Christian Marclay. For this album, Edwards used a stack of old vinyl (mostly sound effects and library sounds, according to Mego) and played with them through a series of effects and manipulations in real-time. The result is disorienting, swirling sound, quite unlike the other stuff I’ve heard from him. It’s not surprising that these tracks channel some of the spirit of early industrial and noise artists; this is the project that recorded a lengthy homage to Maurizio Bianchi for its maiden voyage last year. While Trainwrekz is hardly easy listening, there’s something mesmerizing about its cycling, decaying phrases and patterns. A track like “Wrekfree” begins to suggest a rhythm as it loops, riding cycling waves of feedback, almost enough to bob one’s head in sync if it weren’t so dizzying. The apex of Trainwrekz is the looping, shrill refrain of “Wreksank,” fully recalling the harsh antimusic of vintage Throbbing Gristle, bubbling with delay and effects with what sounds like a disembodied human voice yelping in harmony. Edwards is shrewd enough to follow that with a comedown of sorts, the percolating optimism of “Wreksikz (for Louis Johnstone),” a brighter-faced ending to what can otherwise be a rather unsettling listening experience. Fans of vintage tape music and looping improvisations will likely enjoy getting lost in Edwards’ unusual world, getting pushed and pulled in any and every direction by his toolkit. It’s exciting to hear him step so far from dance music; indeed, Trainwrekz suggests that the outer limits may be home for Nick Edwards.