eMMplekz – IZOD Days
Mordant Music 2012
Although most of his musical output has been electronic in form, Baron Mordant has contributed vocal slatherings to several of his past releases, notably Mordant Music’s laryngitic SyMptoMs, and from what BM tells me these were all perhaps forerunners to eMMplekz on which “all those MoMents have really coalesced”. This is an album of pirated urban poetry, with a family lineage featuring both Luis Buñuel’s bastard son and Kode9 & The Spaceape’s grandfather. If you are one of the admirers of Late-Nite Kennington-inspired spoken word wanderings layered over nightmare electronic dribblings, or excretalist egestions paired with foreground Baby Cham jockulations, then you will probably be already on this. If not, jump on with immediacy.
The story goes that Nick Edwards, also known as Ekoplekz, an analogue synth champion, would after noodle sessions send hoards of tunes to BM who would then sift for the gnocchi: 14 asymmetric globules are served as the main to the album. Once soft-boiled BM would roll each globule into his collection of experiences and medulla expulsions, and just like a Black Peter seen it here first one I made earlier, out pops a multi-layered creation – now dipped in chrome 100s & 1000s, now swathed in red crinkle paper and invisible ink. Or as BM puts it (and I’m sure he won’t mind me revealing part of his process) Edwards’ “stereo masters were grafted on and dovetailed with additional vocal fx”. It is these recordings of BM’s poetry that makes this album a masterwork. Wink and you’ll miss them though, since the speed with which we are guided from South London’s midriff to inner-bedroom sessions is an energetic one, requiring stamina and precision listening.
Perhaps not by his own fault but too often are BM’s guttural blasts lost in the sludge of Plekzation. Not to say Edwards’ sonics are unwelcome – far from it – but every highlight on the album coincides with hearing BM’s words clearly. The phraseology of the album, however, is in parts indecipherable in itself, but less in the familiar sense of the word, as in difficult to decipher, and more indecipherable in its literal meaning: not possible to be deciphered. I am sure the Baron wouldn’t say he didn’t want his words to be understood, but by putting out lattices upon gauzes, a density is created which lends difficulty to understanding. I don’t believe this is a failing of the album, but rather this allows listeners novel experiences of comprehension. Comparisons can be drawn with the Modernist Assemblage and their use of Objets Trouvés, and with Blaise Cendrars’ Transsibérien travelogue, with Ekoplekz’s counterpart paralleling Sonia Delauney’s paintings which chaperoned Cendrars’ text.
On an album as dense as this, standouts occur throughout: Summertime Blues, for example, would only be slightly out of place on a Tom Waits special edition bonus disc, featuring husky iterations of what could be the album’s ‘punniest’ phrase: ‘ArchAnenome’. The Square Quill is also noted for its harking back to Lear’s nonsense in its descriptions of “currently trending water like a bastard under an upturned skiff” and “Derek Gervais’ brown syndrome”. We are encouraged to STEP LIVELY on the album’s title track – certainly one of the album’s highlights, but it is not only the lyrics that manage to capture a certain positivity (on this track BM recounts in detail his experiences at his favourite cashpoint [in the Post Office in Hastings, incidentally]), but Ekoplekz’s analogue instrumentation also runs with major chords and scales and avoids the darkness that can often accompany such sounds. How many other albums can you think of where the vocalist lets a cough slip out unmuted? And no, that’s not a question.
The depth of the surrealism (for that is what this is) and the breadth of the subject matter means an arquebus can be easily misheard for an Akabusi, but it doesn’t matter. Too often today are we surrounded by unchallenging texts, and subjected to snatches of monologue by those who assume we have little patience and short spans of attention. BM flatters his audience by providing them with an obscurantist text they can listen to on a commute – rather than allowing one’s livelihood to be diluted by obnoxious and irrelevant textual attacks. I believe that when tussled by the banal, what one needs is a conscious immersion into the oblique – and that is where eMMplekz comes in. Let’s be glad Baron Mordant, who remains the most literarily-characterful reverse-engineer in electronic music, was only nearly steamed on the Northern Line by a 10-strong gang.
By Andrew Spyrou
Do you understand what he’s saying?