Sparks! EP

2006 / 2015





With the eight-track Sparks! EP, Alex Koenig aka Nmesh (stylized as NMΞSH) from Louisville, Kentucky obeys to the recent tendency of retrospective releases. After all, the next Throwback Thursday is about to come. This EP, however, is something more than just that, while simultaneously seeming to be even less: three full tracks are gathered in-between five frilly interludes, and even though the amount of short vignettes and sumptuous segues has risen due to shorter attention spans and the evocation of arcade jingle memorabilia, the Sparks! EP is neither a freeloader nor a copycat, let alone a ripoff, but a rejuvenating tour de force in hindsight. Originally released in March 2006 on the Sonnja-Barrum label, the CD is now available in purely digital form on Nmesh’s Bandcamp section. How does the ebullient EP fare, and why has it been reissued today? Three things are of note in this regard: first, you can’t complain about the panchromaticity of the front artwork and its richly alluvial gamut. While this has anything to do with the music itself, the attached 26-page digital Glitch booklet of yesteryear is still able to translate the music into petrified motion pictures. It’s the colors that are moving, not the illustrations. Second, the EP may not sport the hymnic haze and thermal warmth of Dream Sequins® (AMDISCS, 2014) but foreshadows the lanthanoid interstices of tawny metallics that Nmesh is also known for. And this leads indeed to the third important pillar: the melodies! Be they aeriform, heterodyned or antediluvian, they sure as heck compliment the raging storm of hotplate welding, heating loop recirculation pumps and steel mill recalcitrance. Here’s a meticulous look at all of its eight scintillating sparks.


The EP opens with Dart In Your Neck which, given the nature of the simian exclamation right in the prelude, could have been called something entirely different, more concupiscent. The opener is a filthy beast anyway, supercharged with asphyxiating tap dance rhythms of the caustic kind, helicopter-oid rhythm shifts, clan chief lariats repeating the title of the EP ad infinitum and other turmoils. In lieu of melodies, the genuine roughness of 80’s turntable tracks is emitted throughout the runtime, were it not for the gorgeously twisted Rave pads in the last fifth which work as a centrifugal force and lure the listener on a subcellular level. A wondrously humane inclusion in a mephitic anathema. Coming up next, and being in the epicenter of it all: Star-Mummy, a metallic midtempo mistress sharing the phylogenetic propensities of the EP by pouring them into a bilious anhydride comprised of pitched punctilio Punk, Stadium Rock bursts, four-note Space-Age pulses and vibraphones hued in galactosamines. It is within the latter’s cleavage fracture that hymnic avulsions enter the scenery, making Star-Mummy a grand dame of understanding and amethystine grace. The last third meanwhile radiates reverberated choirs, mauve-tinted polyfoil hoarfrost rivulets and – thank God – another saltatory pattern of Rave memorabilia, ultimately making this an amniotic suntrap after all.


The following six tracks aren’t mere addenda, but the majority of them quite a bit shorter. They are interludes, tidbits, unused thickeners of existing micas. These belittling thoughts notwithstanding, Nmesh still manages to amplify their meaning: what they lack in length, the gain in reliability and catchiness, letting the reviewer beg for extended versions more often than not. Byzantina is an electrifying Futurefunk fusillade made of wonky two-note synth blebs, moaning coquettes, a bone-crushing beat and a runout phase similar to a longitudinal ventiduct complete with apocryphal solar winds and zestful zoetropes. Look Under The Cap meanwhile uses its 67 seconds for a diaphragmatic verglas architecture of perennial pulse percolations, bells and whistles (oh, and cats, did I mention cats?), whereas Pledge Driver throws the traveler into a hexagonal scrimshaw decortication resemblant of those crazy Dutch high-BPM stampede genres; mercilessly mechanic, it is a stokehold peritoneum of doom.


Afterwards, Torgo’s Theme simulates a benthic Rave-induced Hauntology illuminant made of agglutinating beat salvos, gallium catenae, helicoidal asbestus melodies and other tooth-breaking convulsions. Don’t mind the violence when you exit the track! The adjacent Victory Is Ours is the only longer track in the latter phase of almost five minutes: spawning thermal Hammond organ reticulations, handclap-infested 90’s Trance pianos, blurry badger vocals and silkened percussive patterns, it is a comparatively soothing affair. I see dolphins in the sky. I feel loved. And I hear Scatman John, I swear! The finale comes in the shape of Massive Attack’s Exchange, presented here in Alex Koenig’s Shrunken Head Mix dress, pressing the oft-cited Rave complexion into a family-friendly orthochromatic rhizome à la Kirby… right into your glabella.


Nmesh’s Sparks! EP is what you would call an IDM epithelium, and hey, if that IDM term causes your blood pressure to rise due to its omnipresence, lost meaning and overabundant use, then may I suggest the equally dissatisfying guttersnipe called Vaporwave? The Vaporwave marker everyone loves or despises so much can indeed be applied to the Sparks! EP as well, albeit with the wisdom of hindsight. What? You say nay? Labeling things is a catch–22 alright, listening to Alex Koenig’s zigzag zesting, however, is not. After all, the artist himself describes this here EP with the following words: "It sounds like a koala bear crapped a rainbow in your brain." Considering the delightfully flamboyant melodies amidst the cauterized-annealed metallics that otherwise reign over the ophidian multiplex, I willfully succumb and agree. Like or loathe the term IDM, there is a shared sentiment encapsulated in the Sparks! EP, namely the tendency to enjoy the sudden appearance of a polyhedric melody; a melody which suddenly makes the steampunk riots and Shoegaze dungeons not only bearable, but conversely blissful. If you can look back to approximately 15+ years of self-crafted music, with all the stylistic contretemps, delightful throwbacks and retrogressive tendencies included, then it becomes clear that the Sparks! EP is embedded in a raging current, a superfluid of boysenberry thiazides, organic titration and moxie protrusions, all of which remain characteristics in Nmesh’s polysemous productions today. A lapse of time? Sure! A lapse of taste? Nein!


Further listening and reading:


Ambient Review 417: Nmesh – Sparks! EP (2015). Originally published on Feb. 25, 2015 at AmbientExotica.com.