What if you would strip away the latest fashions, the murky layers of effects and gimmicks, and just get out to the otherworldly pleasure of listening to machines transport you into outer-space grooves?
The solo debut of Detroit-based artist Erika, Hexagon, could give you just that liberating feeling. It’s arrestingly minimal in its materials, not only because it’s been sequenced entirely on hardware with a single vintage sequencer, but because the tracks themselves are so beautifully economical and direct. And that makes them no less imaginative. Retro without succumbing to nostalgia, always with an alien-chic groove, Hexagon feels like an unironic return to roots.
Listen to excerpts on SoundCloud:
Erika – Hexagon Cloud 2xLP [IT 30] clips
Or watch the music video for “North Hex,” the visuals themselves a triumph of vintage hardware:
This video is a single live take. Each tone in the song is sent to a different machine, including an array of computers, a WWII submarine oscilloscope, and one of 23 Rutt/Etra video synthesizers, all captured live, including real-time modulations, with the video production mirroring the way you would create music.
This video was created in the dvlab, the video studio of dvdan, by BMG & dvdan. Hand drawn images from Erika are incorporated to represent specific percussion tones. While the Rutt/Etra is usually used to transform scanned human likenesses, dvdan used his intuitive skills to create a unique patch that represents the lead synth tone.
There is no real narrative except what you might create in your imagination. The inspirations are from avant-garde animation (such as Oskar Fischinger) and avant-garde video work from the 20th century. We like to imagine an interdimensional being traveling from their dimension to ours via the gateway within the permanent hexagon shaped storm cloud at Saturn’s north pole.
If Juan Atkins could work with the ghost of Carl Sagan, this record would be a fitting soundtrack. “Early Warning Starfield” erupts with a dazzling flurry of glistening synths, channeling a Sun Ra improvisation. Then, the album takes on a sometimes-asymmetrical, always danceable ride into deep-interstellar post-acid techno.
Erika has been at this a long time, just not as a solo artist – a long-standing hardware improviser with Ectomorph, plus a figure behind Interdimensional Transmissions, she’s a cornerstone of what endures in Detroit. And her tendency to work improvisationally with the hardware keeps these rhythms from becoming overly mechanical, sticking to a jazz-like flow.
If you’re near Detroit, there’s a superb-looking party with her Ectomorph collaborator BMG and the always-lovely Derek Plasaiko, in from Berlin (and formerly holding down New York’s and Detroit’s own scenes), tag-team free-flow good-sound Saturday night at Exit 69. For Erika, just wait until August 17 as she joins an all-star lineup of Detroit mainstays.
For everyone else, more on the release:
Vinyl and digital available from online retailers like Hard Wax.
We hope to interview Erika soon, so if you’ve got questions for her, let us know. I’ll be sure to ask which BBS software she was running back in the day when she ran a board. (Betting on Wildcat.)
Remixed Hexagon Cloud:
And here’s Erika on New York’s favorite podcast, from techno haven The Bunker: