Ekranoplans mix irreverence with punk licks

ekranoplansUnconditional Loop – Ekranoplans (LedaTape Organisation)

One of the enduring paradoxes of the past 18 months has been the adherence of certain apparently progressive communities to the discourse of compliance.

For communities that see their antecedents in rebellion, hedonism, nihilism and two-fingered defiance in the face of state intervention, cleaving to the rhetoric of "doing the right thing" is worthy of lengthy academic analysis – even more so when the impact of compliance on the very existence of fringe communities is thrown into the mix. Still, the discourse of 60s radicals is polluted with self-serving assertions of piety, so it’s nothing new.

Compliance is a necessary thread in social fabric, but it’s not an ends in itself, nor is its practice an invitation to prance around wearing the thin cloak of moral piety. Because no society ever progresses without judicious acts of non-compliance, compliance is a behavioural instinct that must always been second guessed.

Unfortunately, in the current warped political climate, libertarian protestations of ‘freedom’ – itself a nebulously defined and ideologically charged term rarely understood by its cheerleaders – have been become the rambling tropes of wingnut conspiracy theorists and renegade elected officials who wouldn’t know their Derrida from their derriere.

So where does that leave Melbopurne’s Ekranoplans? Bent, most likely, but in a good way.

“Fuck it all! It’s time we time we wag off science. We’ll take your symbols of compliance to make our gestures of defiance!” shouts Ekranoplans singer Simon Strong in “Felt Nowt” (Northern England dialect for ‘felt nothing’) over a roguish post-punk riff that resides somewhere north of the intersection between the Pistols and Wire. Strong’s target is the school of his youth and its attendant aesthetic and discursive illustrations of behavioural. But there is something deeper going on: where does compliance get us, and what is the point of it all? Fall into line if you will, but at least think it through.

Then you get “Big Five”, a blunt, Stooges-in-the-boozer dissertation on the reality of military existence. The language of war is ubiquitous – Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty, Nixon had his war on drugs, according to at least one current Australian state leader, we’re in a ‘literal’ (!) war against a single-celled organism and the war on youth is the most dangerous and insidious of campaigns.

Oddly, we ignore the litany of human errors distributed throughout the history of war –the French got on the piss the night before Agincourt, the Anzacs landed at the wrong beach, the Americans didn’t take into account the cultural and physical terrain in south-east Asia, the Coalition of the Willing leant on a dossier of creative fiction to justify a decade-long campaign.  

“Daisy Chain” is radical shift in tempo, a micro-dose of English country acid folk to remind us all of the elegant beauty of nature in a world ravaged by human stupidity and hubris. Take your pills and the world seems a better place, kindler, gentler, bereft of emotive, polarising and ill-informed commentary. If only.  

“Perfect Storm” is a love song, just as Public Image Ltd denied it ever wrote, with lilting beauty instead of abrasive barbs. It’s drenched in lysergic adolescent pleasure, naïve, apprehensive, excited, energised, everything and nothing. Was it all a dream, conceived in the empowered sensory glow of a Spaceman 3 experience? Or it a moment of personal awakening, now and forevermore chased as the façade of community crumbles around us.

Over on side 2, there’s “Peak Love”, a grooving, slick, funked out post-punk track that drags you into the ether of fear, spins you around and sneer at your fallibility in the face of uncertainty. Oh, and you can dance your proverbial off to it, too.

“Blues for Andrey Markov” is a metronomic rock tribute to a Russian mathematician whose later academic acclaim overshadowed his earlier rebellious, dare we say non-compliant, attitude. Despite popular misunderstanding, science and mathematics – considered “natural philosophy” in centuries past – are less rooted in certainty and predictability than uncertainty and reinvention and, in Markov’s case like so many others before and after him, resistance to the pervasive interests of the state. Simon Strong growls at the chains, metaphorical and literal, that bind us to conformity; when the song ends, we’re enlightened, maybe even liberated, but freedom remains an ideological construct that we don’t truly understand.

Rounding out the journey is, fittingly, “Exit Condition”, ushered and seen out by the didgeridoo of No Fixed Address’s Robert Taylor, is Ekranoplans loitering on the fringes of pop territory. The horns (including former Spencer P Jones and Last Gasp trombonist Adam Hutterer) are contemptuous in an X sort of way, the Motown-esque backing vocals buff the harsh edge off Strong’s emphatic, almost cathartic exposure of the socio-political slavery and signs of human-induced apocalyptic natural disaster that we choose politely to ignore when it suits us our self-interest. The future is uncertain, Jim Morrison observed has he slugged down his 86th beer for the day, and the end is always near.

But maybe this is all overthinking it. Maybe it’s just an aggregation of punk licks and irreverent commentary. And even if it is, get into it. It’s enlightening.

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Tags: melbourne, Ekranoplans , ledatape

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