Dutch producer Ekman has been around for a few years now but it is only recently that his abilities have really begun to match up with an undoubtedly warped and creative musical mind. Over the last eighteen months in particular he is finally living up to the promise his work has long hinted at. Releases for Berceause Heroique and Panzerkreuze have furnished us with different facets of his skills, but it is with The Trilogy Tapes that he seems to have really embraced something special. Last year’s Entropy was a bomb that blew out a number of old expectations, redefining ideas many had that he was simply another talented proponent of a particular Dutch acidic electro sound which owes much (possibly everything) to Murder Capital. Those elements were undeniably there – how could they not be – but the crooked beats fell upon different ground; wider vistas expanded further with an ear for velvety and ghostly soundscaping which gave space for the rare violence of his grooves to break away from their claustrophobic leanings and really ratchet the music into a sort of oddly cinematic netherworld that some of that old Rephlex material used to be at home in.
In many ways, Aphasia feels like a continuation of Entropy’s bleak yet beautiful energy. There are aspects of it that loom larger; the acidic component is beefed up, the beats even more prone to crumbling away into different shapes without a moment’s notice. Yet through it all runs a very similar focus. It’s main port of call is still the electro that has come to define Ekman, but it is a form of the genre that has very little in common with what else is happening in the scene at the moment. Take Rook for example, where the weird whoop of the distorted and talismanic 303 recalls not so much the current fascination with autumnal and spectral movements that has so captivated a lot of European electro, but the heavy vacuum of early Plastikman or AFX where the mounting sense of dread is further accented by the pads tightening like skeletal fingers around you. I Only Hit You ‘Cause I love You resets the mood, cutting out that dark beauty and pressing the same elements in a buckling acid belter. It could almost be a par for the course stomp but Ekman manages to inject just the right amount of looseness to keep its predatory leanings to the fore.
Undoubtedly, though, it will be Aphasia itself that gets the most plays. Under the murk and the grime is a proper groove machine pumped up with an injection of searing funk that is brought to the fore by a strange and welcome popiness courtesy of the demure vocal snips that makes you wonder what disco would have sounded like had it been invented right now by machines. And while it is closer in sound and spirit to the likes of I-F and other godfathers of the Dutch scene than anything else on the record, it moves with a freedom that is entirely of Ekman’s creation. He’s really beginning to find a unique sound whilst helping electro redefine itself for a new age. An accomplished and classy release. Nice one.