Nick Edwards’ output over the last few years has seen him rapidly define his unique sound.
He’s been markedly prolific – if we’re to go by Discogs alone, Reflekzionz is his fifteenth album since 2010 – but also somewhat consistent. In five short years, Edwards has steadily shaped his grotty, tape-dubbed, bass-heavy output, moving from long, barely-penetrable jams to near pop. Reflekzionz is his most coherent and indeed most rewarding set to date, exhibiting his talent for corrosive electronic textures but shaping them into the kind of hook-laden vignettes that you’d expect to have heard from Aphex Twin (or Planet Mu boss Mike Paradinas) in the early 1990s.
I caught up with Edwards over email to ask him a few questions about the album, and to quiz him about his relatively recent home at Planet Mu, a label that is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. If you want to read a more in-depth conversation, Joe Muggs spoke with Edwards last year touching on his beginnings, the now-legendary Gutterbreakz blog and plenty more. Also, don’t forget to check out Laurent Fintoni’s epic oral history of the Planet Mu label.
You can stream Reflekzionz in full below – the album is released via Planet Mu on May 18, on 2LP, CD and digital.
Reflekzionz might be your ‘poppiest’ (hooks, short songs) record to date. Would you agree, and is there any reasoning behind it?
Like everything I ever do, there is very little “reasoning” during the actual creative moment. I’ve always made music in a kind of ‘no mind’ state. I just fiddle around until something starts to happen that I like and I’ll record it and maybe embellish it a bit. It’s only afterwards, when I’m assembling a record for release, that I start seeing the wider picture; patterns emerge, and tracks that feel right together start to coalesce into something that might be called an album.
I used to go through this compiling process alone, but since I started releasing on Planet Mu I’ve had Mike Paradinas heavily involved in the track selection process, so setting the general mood and stylistic approach of each release is very much a collaborative effort now. Mike tends to go for the more melodic stuff, rather than the more weird or aggy material, and I did seem to be coming up with quite a lot of (almost) pop hooks, but bear in mind this is just a dozen of the many tracks I recorded during the year since Unfidelity.
As the final selection began to take shape I noticed a distinct early ’90s flavour shining through, so we focused on that as the album concept. I came up with the title Reflekzionz right at the end, which seemed to capture the mood perfectly and Mike instantly agreed. But there was an awful lot of to-ing and fro-ing and general agonizing leading up to that. Suffice to say we’re both sick to death of the fucking thing now, but hopefully we came up with an appealing package that makes some kind of sense.
What was your setup when you were putting together the album?
Same as usual really – a few synths, drum machines and piles of effects pedals, plus my trusty cassette 4-track recorder. There’s very little in the way of sequencer music, apart from the tracks ‘Quakers Road Skank’ and ‘Seduktion’ which used the Korg Volca. A lot of things people might assume were written on a sequencer were actually played by hand or were short phrases captured on a looped delay pedal.
I guess the main difference from previous material is that there is no electric or bass guitar on this album and some of the beats were created with a little Android app called Caustic which I was having fun with for a while. I would literally make beats on my mobile phone when I was away from the studio, and then record them later, with loads of analogue FX processing to get them sounding nice and dirty. I’d then record them onto cassette and then add more stuff on top. Tracks like ‘A Caustic Romance’, ‘Downtone’ and ‘Canon’s Marsh’ were done that way.
The earlier Entropik EP feels very different from Reflekzionz. It’s markedly more abstract and the two pieces are slower-paced – was it intentional to split the material up?
The track ‘Entropy Symphony’ was recorded ages ago, and could have been on the Unfidelity album but Mike wasn’t convinced, mainly because it was such a long track. Then I recorded ‘Entropy Flash’ last year, but again it was hard to find somewhere for it on the new album due to its length. So then we just thought, fuck it, lets put the two together as a separate 12″. I’m pleased they finally saw the light of day.
Entropik and Reflekzionz sound like loveletters to IDM and Planet Mu’s early years; as the label turns 20 do you have any memories you’d want to share about Mu, both as a fan and a part of the crew?
I think a lot of the music on the new album is inspired by music from the pre-Planet Mu era, when Mike was still releasing stuff on Rephlex etc, but of course the label has been a beacon on my musical radar for a long time. One of the things that really impressed me about Mike’s attitude stems from my time as a music blogger about 10 years ago. I was just some bloke on the internet spouting my unqualified opinions, but Mike got in touch and sent me a massive box full of Planet Mu records and CDs and even made me a couple of custom CDRs of exclusive forthcoming material, which was incredibly generous and trusting of him. I subsequently started getting sent review material from labels far and wide, including Warp, but I think Mike was one of the first to take novice bloggers like me seriously and realize the potential that the blogging platform offered as an alternative means of promoting and encouraging new music.
This was during the period just before MySpace, YouTube and Facebook began to take off, and it seemed like a whole new amateur media frontier was opening up. Things have stabilized a bit since then, but it was a very exciting time for me and of course it was amazing to have Mike feeding me this stuff. I remember being one of the first people to hear the Vex’d album [2005’s Degenerate] when it came out. So I’ve been in contact with Mike (and Marcus Scott, who was working during that period) since that time.
Mike was very quick to pick up on Ekoplekz when I started that project. In fact he offered me a record deal back in late 2010, but I wasn’t quite ready to commit to a big label at that point, so I turned him down (!). He didn’t hold a grudge, and when I came back to him saying I was ready he just said “yes, let’s go for it” and we began assembling what became the Unfidelity album. But if I had taken him up on his original offer, then probably the first Ekoplekz album on Planet Mu would’ve been a more concise, finely-tuned selection from the Fountain Square EP and Memowrekz material that I released on Mordant Music.