Collaborations are an easy way to create excitement; seeing two familiar names rubbing against each other in the artist box is guaranteed to get the hungry hoards of music fans salivating over the potential results. Things were no different for lovers of dub/drone/experimental when news of a hook-up between Ekoplekz and Bass Clef filtered out, but what garnered a further layer of intrigue to the Magic + Dreams full length was the process used to make it.
Entitled ‘Tapeswap’, each artist would fill one channel on a four-track cassette recorder, then hand it over to the other to fill the second, and keep swapping until they had filled all four channels on both tapes. Putting any sense of ego to one side, both would have to work off whatever arrived in the post, allowing
their initial ideas to be taken in unexpected directions, arriving at pastures neither could have envisaged at the start.
The result is 15 tracks of brooding brilliance, an album of heady substance and rough-cut strangeness that showcases bags of craft. It opens with a typically long, tension-packed note that stretches out into a dystopian landscape of agitated ripples and swathes of unsettling beds, establishing an atmosphere
of dense, strained complexity that is prevalent throughout. ‘Tonight Is A Trap But The Bait Is Great’ continues with similarly ominous bass, its unrushed but seriously low-frequency pressure builds under high-pitched synths and crisscrossing flickers of audio, while ‘Skeletal Turrets Loom Over The Reservoir’ attains such intensity you’ll be looking out the window for signs of Armageddon.
It’s by no means all sinister however, tracks like ‘G Major Severn’ bring an almost tranquil air with long bass pulses and soft melodies, ‘Lens Flare Oh Yeah’ balances a mechanical beat with cheerful rising pads, and ‘Sonic Salvation’ paints a washed out expanse that’s tinged with hope, like an abandoned industrial estate being lit by a rare glimpse of sun.
In truth every track is worthy of a mention, the rich textures are saturated with detail and the interplay of different layers creates a wonderfully enveloping experience that’s hard to pull yourself away from. It’s a nervous exploration that reaches some uncomfortable settings, yet even at its darkest moments it
retains that reassuring analogue warmth that would be absent on a more clinical
The collaboration has proved hugely beneficial to both artists. Clef has tempered the roving experimental edge of Ekoplekz to a more accessible degree, while Clef’s usual dark dubs and instrumentation have been lifted to a more exotic range of harmonic surfaces. The process they used may be practically obsolete,
but the music it has produced is as forward thinking and exciting as anything else around.
‘Tapeswap’ is released on October 11 via Magic & Dreams.