31 July 2005
THE MANY WORLDS OF DMX KREW
Ed DMX returns with the latest two installments of the "Collapse Of The Wave Function" series. There's a whole conceptual thing to do with Quantum Dynamics, but I'm gonna avoid all that cos I'm intellectually challenged. Released simultaneously, Vols.4 & 5 both feature nine tracks crammed onto one piece of vinyl. That's what LPs used to be like when I was a lad. Is this some cunning plot by Rephlex to bring back the once-common 'standard' album format? Or are they just a bunch of cheapskates for not spreading Ed's luscious future-retro sounds over four sides? Let the public decide...
Anyway, Vol.4 is called "Many Worlds" and is very much a record of two halves. Remember the first time you heard Kraftwerk's "Man Machine" album? Music that was, on the face of it, clinical, robotic and minimal, yet strangely charged with a warm emotional glow and an almost classic sense of melodic beauty? That's the sort of feeling I get from side 1 - a utopian fantasy of the future, transmitted back from the 1970's. Whether intended or not, I find it...nostalgic. And I'm a total sucker for nostalgia. And yes, I know I've berated Ed's label boss Mr. R.D. James several times this year for seemingly wallowing in analogue-antique ancient history, but I just cannot help but be quietly moved by the burnished elegance of tracks like "Meridian 1212". I totally get a sense of artistic integrity here, plus it sounds like Ed's put a lot of work into the arrangements. Listen to those drum sounds...none of the standard Roland beats here - it sounds like he's diligently sculpted every percussive tone from scratch using synths. Nothing new in that per se, but in this age of massive, instantly accessable libraries of digital sound, how many people actually do bother to create their own drum sounds these days?
Another thing to consider is that there's always been a bit of a retro element in Ed's muse. Whether it's classic electro or mid-'80s tech-pop revivalism, the idea of 'looking back to go forward' seems to be intrinsic to his creativity. But if it's a truly modern spin on analogue-fetishism you're after, then flip the record over and prepare to be amazed! "Mars Memory" features the same kind of bashment pressure as the 7 inch "Vol.2" that came out last year, whilst both "The Monsignor" and "The Pleasure Zone" seem to imbue the new Grime riddims with added lashings of analogue depth and warmth. At least that's how I perceived it on first hearing (and so did some of my visitors when they listened to that clip last week) but this is only how the brain perceives it. I'll let you in on a little secret: these ones were created in the virtual realm, using Reason software. This perhaps backs-up some of my colleagues assertions that Analord wasn't truly analogue, and reveals how easy it is to be fooled by the incredible bit-crunching capabilities of software today. Generally speaking I couldn't give a damn what gear is used - it's the end results that count, and Ed's inspired re-imagining of Grime as phat, squelchy analogue loveliness is no less valid despite it's 'fakeness'.
After the delightful yin & yang of Vol.4, I was feeling slightly let down when Vol. 5, "The Transactional Interpretation", opened with "William The Conquerer" which, although featuring a welcome return to the mic for a spot of 'singing', is basically a throwaway backing track where the "historical/educational" lyrics are the most interesting thing about it! No need to panic though, as Ed quickly switches up a gear for more supreme retro flavas on "Brain Location Service", this time adding some Drexcyia-like electro pulses into the mix (I often compare things to Drexciya - the high-watermark of 'black' electronic funk against which all others must be measured!). Ed mines a similar vein on "Echelon", which would've fit perfectly on Drexciya's "The Quest". Then there's a processed drum-workout called "Clock Works" which focusses on the creative sound-mashings possibilities of the Eventide Harmoniser vintage effects unit. Elsewhere, Ed seemingly transforms into label-mate Bochum Welt for the soft-focus uplifting melodicism of "Heisenburg". Weirdest of all is "Feynman Radio", which sounds like Ed having trouble keeping his analogue synth in tune! I say that cos it reminds me of the sort of thing I used to do with a Mrk. 1 ARP Odyssey, which I had terrible trouble keeping in tune with my other synths. I'd play a melody on it and it would produce a thin, flat, pathetic, sad, lonely tune very similar to the one on display here. It's probably Ed experimenting with weird tonal scales (been getting daft ideas from Aphex again?!) but I find it quite agreeable.
Overall, I reckon I've been well spoilt by most of these 18 pieces of music. I feel like a bloated glutton who's been gorging on a free meal-ticket. Incidently, I wasn't sent these for review by Rephlex themselves (they're still studiously refusing to acknowledge my existence, and I'm too cool/timid to e-mail them begging for hand-outs) but by Ed DMX himself. So massive thanks to Ed, it's really appreciated and I'm well chuffed that he values my opinions enough to go to the expense of sending these to me. Hope my amateurish ramblings convince a few heads out there to part with their cash. Speaking of which...
Buy Vol.4 at Warpmart (or Boomkat if you wanna hear some more clips)
Likewise Vol.5 - Warpmart or Boomkat.
"...Wave Function" series plus a bonus 'best of' disc (highlights from the rest of Ed's Rephlex output) will be available in about a month's time.
Visit Ed at www.dmxkrew.com.