Kevin Martin is a British musician, producer and former journalist, widely known under his recording alias The Bug and for his group King Midas Sound. Now based in Berlin, his upcoming album Angels & Devils is due out on Ninja Tune later this year. This piece appears in the forthcoming Spring, 2014 issue of Electronic Beats Magazine. Interview by Louise Brailey.
It was Tom “Peverelist” Ford, Bristol’s Punch Drunk label boss, who first put me onto Nick Edwards’ work as Ekoplekz. He sent me a press release for Stalag Zero in 2010 which was fascinating at the time, because it was a million miles from Bristol’s dubstep scene, which was already succumbing to a uniform sound in keeping with what was happening across the whole of dubstep in the UK. This was music that was deviant, sonically and aesthetically. A year after that, I went to see Nick play at former jazz club the Vortex in Stoke Newington and while it wasn’t a great PA and there were a lot of people attempting to chatter through his set, he drowned them out. We’ve stayed in contact since then—that is, I still send him the odd email bugging him for the new releases he has coming out.
While I haven’t been able to keep track of all of Nick’s subsequent releases, what I have heard has left me with the impression that his output was becoming more experimental, atonal and arch. With Unfidelity, however, he’s let some light into his domain. I was particularly surprised by first track “Trace Elements” as it starts exactly as you’d expect an Ekoplekz record to start: cold and mechanized. Then a melodic K.O. riff comes in, which reminds me of Aphex Twin at his most pastoral and drugged. Likewise, “Coalpit Heath” is the antithesis to what I thought Nick was about before: it’s ambient, less agitated and much less openly paranoid. It was the first track that I immediately rewound, which is funny as it’s probably the one people would least expect me to go for; it’s the most narcotic and levitational cut on his album—strictly zoned. The thing is, a record like this is virtually irresistible to me because it’s just another extension of dub in its most corroded manifestation. When I put a compilation together on Virgin called Macro Dub Infection, the whole aesthetic behind the compilation and the sleeve notes I wrote for it were to impress the idea that dub is like an infection: it’s viral. The best dub goes far beyond music, it’s a way of looking at the world, a counterpoint to William Burroughs’ cut-ups and Jean Luc Godard’s celluloid edits. Dub mirrors how fragmented and insane modern existence is, and how we all focus on messed up pieces of a puzzle. As much as there’s been a consistent attempt to ghettoize me in dubstep, I’ve never felt comfortable with that. I really just feel that I’m a freak, a perpetual outsider; an army of one. Nick is the same.
There’s a maxim that we use in King Midas Sound that we took from DJ Premier: we want “to shock, excite and amaze”. I’m turned on by music that has fire in its belly. I want music to be revolutionary in its approach and impact. Unfortunately, because I’m a nerdy bastard, I spotted a lot of the antecedents to this record: parts remind me of John Carpenter, parts of early Cabaret Voltaire, parts even remind me of Kraftwerk, albeit cracked and broken down. But what makes it seem fresh is the relative redundancy of so many ideas in dance music now where, thanks to the accessibility of software, anyone can make a shit house track with nothing philosophical to offer. In response, Nick’s reverted to mad scientist mode: agitated, obsessive-compulsive, tangential. Live he resembles this intense nerd hunched over bits of gear, effects pedals coming out of his arse. He wears his influences on his sleeve here, going so far as to call a track “Robert Rental”. Rental was one of the pioneers of industrial music in the UK, but before it went globally shit. He put out very few releases, seemingly happy to collaborate with more “visible” people like Daniel Miller and Thomas Leer. But what Nick’s taken from Rental’s music is this sense of melancholy in the machinery. The overall finish of this record is key too, in that it’s willfully lo-fi. The contemporary fear that we’re under surveillance, with all our movements controlled, has resulted in art that’s universally clinical, conformist and sterile. Thankfully, Unfidelity has dirt under its fingernails, and a nervous stare over its shoulder.
Of course, one of the hardest challenges in electronic music is knowing how to give the machinery your personalized voice. As a producer you ask yourself, “How can I make electronic music that’s original? Will someone be able to identify the sound from the very first bars they hear?” I had a long period of procrastination after London Zoo where I wondered whether I ought to just tear up my own rulebook and do something fresh. Then I got deep into my new album and decided I wanted to stretch the parameters, while keeping my singular voice. Nick must have these internal dialogues too, particularly as he’s released such a large body of work in a short time. Compounding this pressure is the fact that there’s been an explosion of interest in synthesis in electronics with the down pricing of modular synthesizers. There are probably loads of bedroom producers who are now getting immersed in warped electronica and that’s great. The more warped the better! However, at this point in time there’s still nobody releasing music like Nick is releasing here. He’s truly established his turf, and that’s one of the most crucial qualities for any producer working today. ~