ZX ELECTRIC – Fixed Unknown

If only the universe were actually a 1950s science fiction thrill ride of somewhat surreal, deco film poster-y nonsense like the album art for ZX ELECTRIC's Fixed Unknown, all just floating above our heads... we would all never sleep again for the terror that the whole thing could at any moment collapse in on itself in a bedazzling array of Busby Berkely numbers, but imagine how much easier it would be to find meaning?

If only the universe were actually a 1930s science fiction thrill ride of somewhat surreal and starkly hypnotic deco film poster visuals like the album art for ZX ELECTRIC’s Fixed Unknown, all just floating above our heads… we would probably never sleep again for the terror that the whole thing could at any moment collapse in on itself in a bedazzling array of Busby Berkeley numbers, but imagine how much easier it would be to find meaning…

Artist: ZX ELECTRIC
Title: Fixed Unknown
Label: Satori Recordings
Cat#: None
Keywords: Alternative, Krautrock, Minimal Wave, Coldwave, Gothic, Lo-Fi, Post-Punk, Synthwave
Reviewer: Alex Spalding

Q: Are friends electric?

A: Only if you plug them in.

(All my friends are lamps.)

Anyway, welcome, friends, to a very electrically charged review that I couldn’t wait to get started on this evening! Tonight, we’ve set the controls for the heart of the Fixed Unknown, which can be pretty hard to find when you don’t know where you’re looking. It’s a good thing we’ve got all these friendly lamps hanging around, wouldn’t you say? Makes our search much easier!

I received a request to chart this frontier of largely unexplored music a little bit earlier in the day from a very luminescent person, I’m sure, but I had to run off to get some breakfast with a Tiffany. I’ve returned now, so let’s cast a light upon the sounds:

First off, getting us sonically prepared for our venture, is a track titled ‘Sorrow Story’. Right away you notice the analog circuitry, the rhythmic guitar… the vocalist’s guttural style of singing is intriguing, reminding me slightly of Young Gods at times. The whole thing is minimal, and really cool.

The next one is ‘Fracture Torture’, on which the synth sounds very tiny, modular, playful. The synth is the easiest part of the mix for me to grasp onto, even as it is shrinks to the back. It tries with it’s tiny cold heart to brighten our lives while everything around it is so rough and harsh. There’s an oscillation, like the flutter of large electric wings.

Where I really start to fall in love is on ‘Together Alive’, which begins with such warm analog synth nostalgia… it feels abused by the vocalist, but I feel also like in this way the track becomes very important, like this was a conscious effort to provoke a kind of feeling… here is this beautiful thing, and here is it’s harrowed journey.

Afterward is more synth and guitar fusion on ‘Tricyclic’, which is very nice! I feel like I’m laying in the dark watching shadows play upon the ceiling of a bedroom and it’s really the moon and I’m imagining there are numerous wonderful eclipses, then the shadows of frightening creatures emerge… it’s all a play of light.

The guitar that begins ‘Fortune Defied’ is urgent, the vocals a kind of lunacy… the synths here still manage to pop in with tones and frequencies that insist there is love to be found. Very post-punk experimentalist, reminding me of some of Rough Trade’s early output, and artists like Pere Ubu and This Heat. Not trying to say this isn’t unique, though! It’s got it’s own very definite vibe and artistic sensibility…

… ‘Steel And Glass’ is really cool, with some grungy synth groan tones. I feel like what it is, is this seems like a kind of lo-fi local band you’d see at a bar, but with a really huge twist, an overdriven art vibe that I’m really enjoying.

‘Mind And Soul’ begins beautifully… as this album gets closer and closer to it’s end, I move increasingly toward a desperation that it won’t. At least, not when I know it will, but much later, after I’ve absorbed a lot more of it! The vocals are hugely experimental throughout this whole thing. I’m making an attempt at exploring what is a very different vocal approach, and it’s hard to get a firm feel for. There’s a sense I receive that a gauntlet has been thrown down, a challenge to acclimate myself to this and figure out the perceptual key that will unlock and open the pleasure receptors that ZX ELECTRIC seems to have an otherwise solid understanding of.

‘Moves In Shadows’ feels super dense, charged by static. The energy causing the atmosphere to dry and crackle. No trace of synth to my ear, though it may be buried under the other layers or adding to the noise of the piece in some other mysterious way.

Next is ‘Amnesia’, with more light analog keys…

… and then even better, the finale is ‘Altered States’, with some really great knob-tweaking analog synths! It’s a pretty majestic track, with a grand sense of movement that we follow along as if moved by invisible strings toward the silence that tells us it’s over.

We’ll have to kill the lights for now, but overall this is a record worth hearing for sure!

This enigmatic masterpiece I’ve described can be heard at the link below… share it around, and see what people think! I’m sure they’ll be like… what is this unusual sound? You’ll see. I’m probably right about that. But… it could also change their lives forever! You can never know for sure, in this world, unless you try. I know it’s an album I’m going to be thinking over for awhile.

https://zxelectric.bandcamp.com/album/fixed-unknown

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