Ekoplekz: Reflekzionz (Planet µ)
Nick Edwards has been prolific since first releasing music under the Ekoplekz moniker. His latest for Mike Paradinas’ esteemed Planet µ imprint is the most accessible stuff to come out of Edwards’ machines in some time, at least to my ears. “A Caustic Romance” is a brilliantly named opener, not only recalling the grimy distortion of Richard D. James’ Caustic Window project (as well as his Aphex tracks from around the same time, especially …I Care Because You Do), but also juxtaposing those more caustic sounds with a practically sing-song melody, giving it a brightness and crude sense of optimism that is hard not to love. It mirrors the bright, explosive imagery of the cover art, sounding all at once chaotic and slightly volatile but also bright and colorful. This puts it in sharp contrast to some of his harsher records and projects for Perc Trax and Editions Mego, instead harnessing his ear for mangled sound and pointing toward sunnier pastures.
Not every track is as straightforward melodically as the opener, but they often share its unusually springy animation; “Quakers Road Skank” bleeps and squiggles its way around a chunky syncopation of synth stabs while “Seduktion” lets its spry modular synth sounds lead the way before a distorted lead bubbles to the surface. Even when the beat all but disappears fully, a track like “Repeater” has a buoyancy about it that renders it harmless compared to some of his more menacing or disorienting productions of the past.
There’s a smattering of vintage Warp sounds spread throughout Reflekzionz, not only in the mid-range crunch of his effects (which is almost impossible to not recall early Aphex Twin) but also in rhythm and tone, just as much recalling some of Mark Bell’s more esoteric sounds in the mid 90s as LFO (R.I.P.). However, by and large, despite wetting his feet with more musical and approachable sounds on Reflekzionz, Edwards remains inevitably true to his own ear and creative vision, still sounding undeniably like these tracks have come from the same unique voice that created Westerleigh Works or Ensemble Skalecktrik’s Trainwreckz LP. In a FACT interview with John Twells, Edwards noted that label boss Paradinas has a significant role in selecting and sequencing tracks for his albums for the label. It’s not surprising then that this most recent curation recalls the crunchy and lo-fi heyday of early melodic IDM, namely that of Paradinas’ µ-Ziq and his contemporaries (Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, Luke Vibert, LFO). It’s a welcome editing ear, reining Edwards’ often boundless explorations in to a more focused and concise set of musical ideas. Edwards claims they are but a handful of dozens of tracks he recorded since the release of Unfidelity, his first µ outing, so it will be interesting to see how his musical bounty unfurls. Meanwhile his fans can revel in the controlled chaos of Reflekzionz, through rousing pseudo-anthems such as “Saturation (Full Rinse)” and “A Caustic Romance” and more beguiling numbers like “Black Calkz” (another Aphex reference) and “Dubnium 268.” Interesting and recommended immersive listening.