Having previously released offerings for labels such as Punch Drunk, Mordant Music and Perc Trax, prolific album artist Ekoplekz (Nick Edwards), working closely with Planet Mu’s enigmatic figurehead Mike Paradinas offers up an experimental take on Techno, that is perfectly at home on the revered UK label.
Opening number “Trace Elements” sets the tone of what is to follow, and that is surprisingly, although extremely welcome, a return to the Experimental Techno and IDM vibes that first brought the Aphex Twin’s friend and collaborator’s label to the attention of Britian’s experimental music scenes. Despite the fact this is an Ekoplekz release, Mike Paradinas’ stamp is all over this record – Muziq/Richard D James style melodics combining with rigid sequenced synth and drum machine workouts alongside IDM effectuations that harkens back to a time when a Venetian Snares record would sell 20,000 copies, maybe 3 or 4 times a year. Although it feels very, very similar, we eventually discover, its also very, very different as well.
That’s not to say that the album is completely derivative – that would be unfair –as the sound palette defiantly leans more towards the lo-fi spectrum than the jarring high-energy, high-frequency tones usually associate with the more wiggy styles of Electronica. “Robert Rental” for example utilises a gradual build-up of feedback to add intensity to the lurching, drunken analogue style bass line, that is so out of time, it only makes sense when looped repeatedly throughout the course of the track – a lovely touch borrowed from the crate digging masters from LA. It is this classic, sample heavy sound palette that lifts ‘Unfidelity’ out of the realms of boredom into something much more intriguing than one might first imagine. Its as if Bebe and Louis Barron had been resurrected and put into a studio with Ian Boddy with a mission to make spaceman Techno for 1950s school kids and as expected the results vary.
However, the depth of the samples he has used really capture a pre everything vibe, and this when combined with production techniques running from early Musique-Concréte all the way through to Dub, Techno and everything in between is what makes this album an almost timeless affair. It is a Jekyll and Hyde type thing for this reviewer though, veering between loving to hating it, to loving it again all depending on what mood strikes. That is arguably a good thing though, for anything to elicit such an emotional response, something must be working as intended – its confrontational in a passive aggressive type of way.
The shadow of Acid looms large over ‘Unfidelity’ – although it is deployed extremely subtly, with elements being teased in and out of the background – with “Severn Beach” being a prime example of how to mesh Acid, Dub, Bass and Electronica influences together in 2014, without leaning on played out Rave memes and ideas.
Title track “Unfidelity” deals with the currently en-vogue trend of setting soundsytem signifiers within beatless, weightless, ambient templates, that were it not followed by “Coalpit Heath” – probably my favourite cut on the album (after “Trace Elements”) it would have been a nigh on worthless inclusion – however the slow burning themes introduced in “Unfidelity” resolve themselves somewhat, mutating into a progressive Dub-esq number smothered in incidental noise and texture and a deep as you like, crafting a delay riddled atmospheric back drop.
The album settles with “Sleng Zen” a mindfuck of a Dubstep tune – although perhaps, as with the rest of this album, not as you would expect. It’s extremely introspective, springy and Dubwise, utilising a light weight Half-Step template to frame its sci-fi Dub stylings with aplomb. The effects seem weightless, hanging over the spindly tracks’ emaciated frame like the spectre of King Tubby.
Edwards’s ‘Unfidelity’, although far from perfect, is a satisfying, enjoyable, almost Hauntology-meets-Cyberpunk listen, that harks back to a time when electronic listening music was all the rage and as famous film workshopper Robert McKee said, in a comment that totally relates to the album format of music, “Wow them in the end, and you got a hit. You can have flaws, problems, but wow them in the end, and you’ve got a hit.” – a statement as true today, as when it was written.
‘Unfidelity’ is out now on Planet Mu. Buy it here.