The Durian Brothers / Ensemble Skalectrik - Split Series #22
It's an intriguing idea, the old Split EP.
Back in the mists of time, when you could still light up inside an enclosed area without fear of emasculation, I purchased the first (blue) vinyl release by a young troupe of wannabe-scenesters called The Cribs, backed by a couple of tracks by Jen Schande (stupidly, I gave this away a few years ago - It's now valued at about £100). The two acts bore little resemblance, yet some genius had the idea to fling them together in the hope, presumably, that the success of one might influence the trajectory of the other.
Well, the rest is not-very-interesting history. One went mainstream big, the other… didn't.
Fat Cat's series of full-length splits, on the other hand, combines artists whose music can be said to react favourably to juxtaposition. Each 12-inch comes individually drilled - one hole for the first release, two holes for the second - meaning that their twenty-second combination of Durian Brothers and Ensemble Skalectrik is very holy indeed, in form and flavour.
The Durian Brothers mess about with record decks, elastic bands and sound fields to create stuttering, lolloping grooves that manage the not-unimpressive task of hanging together despite their apparent impulse to burst out in every direction at once. 'Staatsqualle' sounds like a faulty typewriter gnawing away on its own innards, driving itself forward with only the merest of suggestion of something approaching a 4/4 rhythm. 'Unterirdisch' slips into a harlequin, good-natured ogre of a beat that rebounds back on itself continuously. The Brothers favour clashing, steampunk oratory, hitting a rutted-up, chaotic dancefloor rhythm on the funk-inflected 'Angstbirne', with percussive sounds akin to throbbing rubber pipes and a nicely low-key bass line. According to an awful German-English online translator I consulted, the title means something like 'Anxiety Pear' - which proves more than anything that the off cuts of the means of production themselves can be almost as enlightening as the product. The Brothers mine this rich seam of inspiration with a very selective and articulate flair.
Backing up the fairytale lo-fi beats of Durian Brothers is something akin to Jan Svankmajer's dreams during the creation of his Alice. Ensemble Skalectrik is Nick 'Ekoplekz' Edwards's hauntological collections of performance-based crooked vista-painting.
Pitched somewhere between a soundtrack to an even darker version of Chris Morris's Jam and he-who-shall-not-be-named-but-is-in-fact-not-Four-Tet, the collection echoes much of Edwards's Ekoplekz work, while inserting even more of his Radiophonic Workshop-style samples (on 'Outer Phase') and unsettling neo-Baroque manipulated classical snippets ('Winslow').
Globules of percussion flit from ear to ear as the producer allows EQ and volume to coagulate through his live, real-time composition technique. The skill of performance art is in transcending the process of creation by ensuring the product appears lifelike, self-perpetuating and not simply the slave of its creator. Edwards achieves this by flitting between passages of extreme freedom and taut structure. Moments of clashing rhythm abound throughout 'Pharos Groove', at times almost breaking into conformity in a style reminiscent of Ceefax. Throughout his contribution, Edwards directs his gaze more onto the discomforting properties of chronological and spatial distortion than the Brothers, which draws a nice narrative curve through the overall split project.