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Reflekzionz Joseph Burnett , May 27th, 2015 12:49

Nick Edwards, aka Ekoplekz, Ensemble Scalectrik, one half of Emmplekz and quite a lot besides, has been on a roll since joining the Planet Mu roster last year, even by his productive standards. Reflekzionz is already his third album on the label, and is perhaps the most accessible record he's ever put his main pseudonym to. There's still a lot of the lo-fi wooziness one associates with Ekoplekz at play on these 12 tracks, but to say that the brightness that illuminates opener 'A Caustic Romance' made me stop and stare at my speakers in bafflement would not be an overstatement. 'A Caustic Romance' is bouncy, propelled by electrifying beats and peppered with house-like synth lines that are positively euphoric. It's still an Ekoplekz track, with Edwards' trademark off-kilter murk splashing in the track's corners, only seductive in a more obvious way than his previous material, with only residual hints of the haunted dimension he usually drops in and out of, in the form of a certain melancholia. Oh, and it's fucking gorgeous.

With a title like Reflekzionz, this is clearly an album with at least one eye on the past, namely the early 90s electronica scene that Edwards was immersed in as a young man. With that in mind, 'A Caustic Romance' becomes less of a surprise, as it almost sounds like an ectoplasmic aftereffect sliding down the walls during the recording sessions for Leftfield's 'Open Up'. Elsewhere, the album seems to dwell in some sort of dreamlike recreation of the heady days of Warp Records' peak years: a synth line here might briefly evoke Squarepusher, a rhythmic eruption there conjures up the ghostly pop atmospherics of Broadcast, whilst some of the shorter instrumentals are not a million miles from Aphex Twin. However, this is Nick Edwards, and no influences ever escape his own singular approach to electronic music. The crumbly bass and six-string guitars may for the most part be absent on Reflekzionz, and the drums sound crisper and more contemporary than ever before, but make no mistake: if Ekoplekz is gazing into the past to a time when electronica was more grandiose, he's doing it on his own terms.

If 'A Caustic Romance' hints at sudden dancefloor ambitions emerging in Edwards, it proves to be a false dawn, a tantalising little joke, albeit a lushly beautiful one. Whilst further rhythmic flourishes do pop up elsewhere on the album, for the most part Reflekzionz proves to be a slow-paced, contemplative affair. Tracks like 'Seducktion', 'Midnight Cliffs' and 'Repeater (How Did It Feel?)' are trance-like, glacial and repetitive ambient sketches, again evoking Aphex Twin, but with layers of murk and mulch burying the clear tones one associates with Richard James' similar works. Although the radiophonic samples and sounds of previous records that made Ekoplekz sound like a deranged BBC composer stuck in a panopticon are absent on Reflekzionz, the analogue textures of his creations draws more parallels to German synth explorers of the early seventies:Harmonia, Cluser, Klaus Schulze - 'Tremulant' could have been beamed in from the latter's 1973 masterpiece Cyborg - and Tangerine Dream. Even the bouncier, more rhythmic 'Downtone' has the sort of monomaniacally repetitive drive one would associate more with Can's Jaki Liebezeit or Neu's Klaus Dinger.

What emerges from the swirling depths of Reflekzionz is a contemplation of a past as viewed entirely through the foggy filter of Nick Edwards' mind, meaning there's ultimately more to gain from these tracks when taken on their own merits, in 2015, than in considering how they reflect Edwards' vision of electronica circa 1992. As such, the expansive, very British 'Dubnium 268' with its wide organ sound and shuffling beats, still feels like it's coming at you from a dimension just slightly to the side of this one, even as you picture it soundtracking a nocturnal scene in a movie about rave. Same for 'Canon's Marsh': there are hints of ambient techno or even dubstep in there, but Edwards is too singular to deliver anything other than an Ekoplekz track. As a final example, 'Saturation (Full Rinse)' is powered by pulsating breakbeats, but these are juxtaposed with drifting, melancholic ambient passages and filtered to the point of sounding actually fragile rather than muscular.

Reflekzionz may have its roots in the hyperactive, euphoric rave, house and techno scenes of the nineties, but it ultimately emerges as something of a lament for times revolved that survive only as a collection of unreliable memories and slightly out-of-focus photographs. Ekoplekz's music has always had that haunted quality, and that's clearly not going to change, no matter how much some tracks may teasingly hint otherwise.