In 2004, Nick Edwards stumbled upon a newly emerging club trend called dubstep which contorted the gait of grime’s instrumentals and positioned them within apocalyptic spatial atmospherics and screwed 2-step riddims. A former rave kid and occasional producer, he had at this point in his life mostly resigned himself to charting his enthusiasm for old synthpop and industrial music on his Gutterbreakz blog, but the burgeoning dubstep genre seemed to revive his faith in dance music. Edwards thereafter became not only something of an evangelist for the music, but also one of the scene’s principal anthropologists by charting the emerging directions and contours of the style on his regularly updated blog.
By 2010, dubstep had mutated so many times that it was nearly unrecognizable. All the strands that were still recognized as dubstep proper had lost their steam in the underground and a new mutant mainstream hybrid was beginning to conquer stadiums. Meanwhile, the post-noise diaspora sprouted out in the visage of a generation that had grown up on blogs like Edwards’s and his mates, Simon Reynolds and Mark “K-Punk” Fisher- steeped in theory, obsessed with lost futures, pessimistic about the present state of pop, and emboldened by a postpunk-like urge to change things themselves.
It was in this environment that Edwards ended his career as a blogger and stepped out, garbed in a plethora of tactile analogue gear as Ekoplekz. Oddly enough, it was a music uncomplicated by philosophical or academic concerns that had virtually no interest in dancefloors or pop radio whatsoever. What the Ekoplekz project aimed to do instead was update postpunk for the post-Pinch world. Ekoplekz punctuated the uncleanliness of his machines, evoking the primordial timbral dread of Cabaret Voltaire’s chalked dystopian audial hallucinations under the schematics and chromatics of electronic dance and listening music, radiophonics, and krautrock.
Edwards as Ekoplekz embodied the industrial work ethic with a breathlessly prolific streak that produced some of the past two years’ finest sounds. Plekzationz is the first album Edwards has released under his own name since a 100-run cassette way back in 1994. Extracted from a series of live sessions, Plekzationz nonetheless shares many qualities with his nom de plume. The emphasis here is still on crude machines making resonant atonal skronks in what appears to be almost accidental lockstep, the irregular rhythms forming equally disorienting and tantric patterns. The four 15 minute single LP side opuses that comprise the entirety of the album could have derived their titles from chapters in the Ekoplekz manifesto; “Chance Meets Causality Uptown”- a King Tubby/Augustus Pablo reference that suggests the manifest tension between indeterminacy and its programmers; “No Escape from ‘79”- a plea to shed the weight of this project’s own indebtedness to postpunk; “Inside the Analogue Continuum”- a response to Reynolds’s notion of the “hardcore continuum” that poses Edwards’s music in an even longer lineage dating back to early 20th century futurists and noisemakers; and, lastly, “A Pedant’s Progress”- a song title in the form of an admission that gestures towards both absolving and evolving as Edwards stakes forward.
Plekzationz is a longform composition rather than a ramshackle cluster of experiments, presented by Editions Mego, who specialize in these types of holistic yet abstract statements of intent. Yet, it’s not this that makes this one of his best releases (that this listener has heard so far- who can keep up?). It’s the fact that Edwards has absorbed many of his best ideas, laid them flat into a broader more collage-based canvas, and transcended the anxiety of influence that the song titles allude to by making his best qualities sublimate when playing in tandem. Edwards here proves that he knows exactly when to recede a sound and when to let one linger, when to abruptly spike a pitch and when to drown it in phase. His thoughtful fine-tuning of texture and timbre makes Plekzationz into a destination, not just something observed, but felt as well, alternately scraping, wafting, and foaming against the flesh. It’s a brittle and abrasive masterwork, sensory and detached at the same time, a raw emotional chortle from deep inside some heavy wiring and programming.
Edwards’s immersion into dubstep may have been serendipitously timed, but his creative work as Ekoplekz and now under his own name proves that he’s not satisfied with chasing the zeitgeist. Instead, Plekzationz provides further evidence that he’s far more interested now in spawning it.