09 May 2012

Ekoplekz - Scalectrikz & the New Radiophonic Workshop

The sound of two hands not clapping.

This is the latest monster release from the ever-prolific Ekoplekz, this time seeing him flip cassettes from selected live bits and bobs (more bobs than bits, judging from his live performances) to studio improvisations and back again. There’s a wealth of material here, unformed and fruity, mangled like he likes it (like we like it) Echo dominates, nothing goes unmodulated, sounds screwed out of wires, savaged by electrics and misfires (and miswires). It’s perhaps superfluous to focus on individual tracks because these work best in bunches of three to five, like fingers in a fist, with knuckles knotted by knob-twists (the boy’s gonna have arthritis at this rate). To my ears, a lot of this sounds like a return to the very first Ekoplekz releases (my fave is still the limited edition –tape he did at the very start of this journey, the one in the red sleeve), where he was gradually assimilating his influences – King Tubby via the Radiophonic Workshop via Cabaret Voltaire’s first few albums – and finding new paths at every turn. In fact, this release shows the accelerated nature of music these days; this is the kind of thing that would be released only after the band had run its course, when people wanted to return to the basis, when they wanted to see where this guy was coming from.

These are basement tapes, pre-releases found on acetate. This is Ekoplekz forming and you can see the progression; the crackles turning into drones, the drones becoming less dense and turning into (almost) techno, or into a form of techno that didn’t really happen. Improvisation is key; nothing here but the recordings, no sense that he’s willing the music into certain directions – and this is the key to the music’s success; it just is and challenges you to accept it, as music, as suggestion, as unhidden potential*.

 Ekoplekz is the new exemplar of bedroom music; he’s a tiny little genre of one and he has an unique ability to make it seem like he doesn’t know what he’s doing. Wonder-ful. *in fact, this is what I liked about the original Radiophonic Workshop - the idea that this was only just music for the home - and it's why I have slight reservations about the news that the Radiophonic Workshop is opening its doors again. I mean, the originals couldn't have known that their music was going to be treated as such; it was functional music, designed for visual company, designed to flitter around a story or flesh out a badly lurching set or monster. I can't help but think the new version and the people associated with it will inevitably come at their creations from a different angle, with half an eye on potential album sales, on the market itself. I hope not because listening to the original Doctor Who 'music' cassettes you get a real sense that this isn't for listening attentively at all and there's an alchemy at work from the listeners' POV, a certain activity required for the music to make any sense, shorn of context. That's the beauty of those nasty little analogue flicks and turns; the reason why those sounds are so revered... to purposively make the soundtrack listenable in itself seems to miss the point...

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