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In Search of the Third Mantra Richard Foster , November 11th, 2019 10:00

Ekoplekz' tribute to late cultural theorist Mark Fisher proves surprisingly enjoyable, finds Richard Foster

Ekoplekz's very moreish new album In Search of the Third Mantra, described as a collection of “bleak postcards from the present”, seems to be an exercise in socio-cultural wish fulfilment. It’s also a sonic reflection on behalf of the Bristolian on the powerful legacy of the late, great Mark Fisher.

In Search of the Third Mantra is a slideshow of sorts, constructing historical parallels with Britain's most notorious postwar political shift, from Keynesianism to what became known as Thatcherism, in 1979. Maybe the music is there to give us the space to navel gaze and dream about the idea of Jim Callaghan and Dennis Healey seeing off Margaret Thatcher back then? I suspect so.

Despite the feeling of hopelessness inherent in trying to turn the clock back to peak Welfare State Britain, these kinds of cultural comparisons are as good a way as any to trigger ideas around alternative futures. In reflecting the now against the then, Ekoplekz seems to tease us (or maybe even to reassure us) with what might have been and what could be, if we could just shrug off the legacy of this never-ending neoliberal present. The tracks ‘She's a Tangent’ and ‘Sons of Chance’ seem to play such a role, mixing post-rave bleeps with a vibe that sounds like an aural cold, evoking Ruts DC’s Rhythm Collision and the early 90s Bristol scene. Maybe Ekoplekz is creating a mind map to show old sounds can be employed to create future possibilities, rather than just regurgitated to serve fashionable or industry needs.

Ekoplekz’s work has often sported an architectural feel. The musical moodscapes found on eMMplekz: Your Crate Has Changed boasted the superply dank ‘Queer Vibe’, a gothic appraisal of a rented room. And in this regard the dedication to Fisher is a well-chosen one. The record seems to pick up on some of Fisher's writings on hauntology; specifically how the concept relates to urban landscapes. One or two direct references in the track titles seem to bear this out: the aforementioned ‘She's a Tangent’ is part of a John Foxx couplet in 'He's a Liquid', from 1980's terrific LP, Metamatic (“He's an angle / she's a tangent”). Then there's the probable nod to Ballard with the title, ‘High Rise Dub’. Both these snippets can be traced to a typically illuminating 2007 post from k-punk on Burial. And I wouldn't be surprised if thought bubbles around Pere Ubu’s Dub Housing hadn't somehow wriggled its way into the artist's subconscious, too.

And do titles like ‘Do the Meinhof’ also maybe wryly nod to Fisher's argument that - despite drastic, fragmented actions - we're more likely to experience a full-blown Ragnarok (big wolf an’ all) than witness an end to neoliberal models of organising capital? It’s a guess but a quietly enjoyable one to ponder.

Still, on the evidence of this LP, dreaming up imaginary lost futures by echoing the past can be a lot of fun. The suffocating, “Very British Coup” nature of those times is brilliantly captured in tracks like ‘K Punk’ (which has a vibe akin to a fusty old carpet). Tracks like this conjure up the era’s practitioners: ‘Trigger Machinery’ or ‘Corrosion Cars’ could be evidence of Adi Wilson’s sonic scumblings in Sheffield. And ‘In Search of the Third Mantra’ conjures up a vision of a pre-Bunnymen Will Sergeant quietly making plans for Industrial / Domestic or Weird as Fish. With other cuts like ‘Accept Nothing’, the more utopian electro-Germanics from Moebius, Plank and co are liberally smeared with British post-industrial grime.

And this is ultimately why, in spite of the gloom and murk this release creates, In Search of the Third Mantra is such an enjoyable listen. Wallowing in miseries old and new needn’t be so uncomfortable after all.