Equiknoxx Music – ‘Colon Man’ 2LP [DDS]

One of the most unnecessarily over-analysed LPs of 2017 was, luckily, also one of the best full length drops we heard all year. And as it’s almost the end of the year we thought we may as well add our rant to it.

Colon Man was released on Demdike Stare’s DDS imprint late November, turning up in my postbox about two weeks later, and is still throwing up surprises when it’s on deck. If you’ve managed to cop it already you can probably skip the rest, as we plan on making this a short and sweet sentiment to go buy the record.

Equiknoxx Music is a five piece collective out of Jamaica who’ve been heavily tipped internationally for a number of years now. Gavsborg, Time Cow and Kemikal on production and instruments alongside singers Shanique Marie and Bobby Blackbird hold it down as a group who not only deliver on record but earn their status as a live crew selecting and performing.

The new album, the primary project of Gavsborg and Time Cow, has been touted as the ‘dancehall saviour’, but to my ears seems to be more in line with the next iteration of instrumental grime’s ongoing evolution. Colon Man is darker and edgier than what we’ve heard previously on Bird Sound Power which leaned much further on it’s dancehall roots than the direction they’ve taken the new album. And keeping in mind that Bird Sound Power – an album which wore it’s riddim inheritance on it’s sleeve – was essentially a compilation of unreleased recordings dating back to 2009, we shouldn’t be shocked by that fact. 

 The merging of scene’s across the last decade has been phenomenal. As pressing plants in 2017 fill with shitty reissues we’re reminded that Grime 2.0 was released five years ago at a time when instrumental grime reached it’s peak, overtaking the emcees contribution as their sounds became more obscure. It was a blessing in disguise as the mic men rebirthed better than before and the producers continued to shoot straight in their own lane of music, still under the grime umbrella.

My point is this; we’ve finally reached the time when genres don’t mean a thing. With online presence however, artists have voices and are able to blatantly tell us where their music comes from. But the road is littered with creators who announced one strand of music or art and accidentally delivered another via audience interpretation, so we need to take a step back from just repeating and repasting them without forming our own opinions.

Which, in a roundabout way, brings us back to the album at hand. Equiknoxx may approach things from a Jamaican dancehall style but the album end result doesn’t deserved to be pegged as that.

Colon Man is a brilliant mish-mash of experimental bass music that have taken over 12″ and 10″ releases across the last two years. From experimental to beats, world music and especially frequent unnamed one shots in the techno vein. Throbbing bass drums and over-extended saw synths that change direction abruptly; the formula’s been laid out for a while now. But what Equiknoxx does incredibly well here is pull together everything that seems to be important to us about record music in 2017 in to a coherent 13 track completed work.

Some of these vibes are definitely reaching their expiration date, and may not carry through 2018, but for now we’ve got a lot of the elements that makeup our favourite records blended together in a new way . There’s UKG influences in tracks like ‘Flank’, Ekoplexx mutation strands on ‘Ceremonial Eating Dog’, Bokeh Version styled cuts that could reference Jay Glass Dubs and synth work on the same level as Illum Sphere’s Glass album. If any of that sounds relevant then go check it out.

Press release below.

Colón Man is the exceptional debut album proper by visionary Jamaican dancehall artists Gavin Blair (Gavsborg) and Jordan Chung (Time Cow) plus their extended crew, aka Equiknoxx – once again for Demdike Stare’s DDS label. Where their widely acclaimed Bird Sound Power primer compilation, issued on DDS in 2016, brought the rest of the world up to speed with the music produced between late ‘00s and 2015, their first album now brings a 2020 sound into sharp, technoid focus thru a baker’s dozen steely, heat-seeking riddims galvanised with clinical electronics and a Midas Touch approach to sampling.

The record’s title, Cólon Man refers to a Jamaican tale (and song) about a mysterious character, whom, like Marcus Garvey, was one of over 100,000 Jamaicans who returned from working in Cólon on completion of the Panama Canal – regarded among the greatest feats of engineering known to humankind, physically connecting the greatest bodies of water on the planet. In context of the album, Gavsborg and Timecow take the story as a metaphorical foundational for a roots and future sound, acknowledging the vital groundwork of previous generations of producers, whilst soundly contextualising their mutant new advancements of Jamaican Dancehall.

Recorded between December 2016 and June 2017, the results of Colón Man form a stark, stripped down and conceptually blinding record. In tone and texture, the duo favour far colder, more abstract sounds, crucially lit up with sparingly used samples that lend the record its dissonant, harmonic colour and bittersweet hooks, stylishly feeding forward their playfully weird sense of humour into a rugged, nutty and even noisily imagineered set.

Bookended by the gauzy, Detroit-compatible synth looks and acid hall grind of Kareece Put Some Some Thread In A Zip Lock, and the mesh of Motor City sleekness with Far Eastern strings on Waterfalls In Ocho Rios, they distill and diversify their bonds in myriad ways across the album. There’s a killer dancehall/trap hybrid in the percolate chorales and man trills of Plantain Porridge, along with the secretive dub-into-dancehall transfusion of Addis Pablo’s melodica in the belly rolling Melodica Badness, while Ceremonial Eating Dog and the hyaline designs of We Miss You Little Joe – a tribute to their pal Alty Nunes – are arguably the most fwd Jamaican riddims you’ll hear in 2017, and Enter A Raffle… Win A Falafel uncannily recalls the clockwork mechanics of Haruomi Hosono’s Alternative 3, from his S-F-X [1984] LP.

No matter what electronic box or boxes you subscribe to, Colón Man is a hugely inventive, compelling album for the ages, a remarkable iteration of Black Secret Technology for 2017 and far beyond.

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