2018

Review in Electronic Sounds Edition 40 by the editor Push

Elijah's Mantle man Mark St.John Ellis returns to his Post – Punk beginnings.

Mark St.John Ellis, aka N-A-G, is an unconventional fellow. Which is why 'Untitled Vinyl Remix' is a cd. A cd of material reworked from two previous cd's. So no vinyl anywhere in the story, then. It's also why the six tracks here are titled 'Untitled'. And why the last track is actually two tracks, the second not titled 'Untitled'. More of which shortly. Confused? Excellent.

If you know your neo-classical, especially where it edges into darkwave, you'll know Mark St.John Ellis. He's headed up the De Nova Da Capo label since 1990, initially establishing it as a vehicle for his Elijah's Mantle project – nine albums to date – but later also releasing records by the likes of Lisa Gerrard from Dead Can Dance and soundtrack composer Rhett Brewer. But back before any of this, Ellis was the chief architect of Theatre of Masque, a cult London outfit who combined weighty industrial music with incredibly visceral performances. Most Theatre of Masque gigs ended with Ellis shedding blood. We're not talking metaphorically here. We're talking your actual running red stuff.

N-A-G is Ellis giving his old analogue synths an outing and his post-punk roots a thoroughly 21st century shakedown. 'Untitled Vinyl Remix' is the third and final part of N-A-G's '...the dirt once found in the grooves...' project and features bursts of spiky guitar and loops of feedback alongside the electronic pulses and clattering percussion. Imagine if Meat Beat Manifesto had formed in 1982 and signed to 4AD. There are glitches and scratches galore, as well as a tinkling music box and a noisy clock. There are tons of intriguing vocal samples too, including snippets of French avant-garde dramatist Antonin Artaud, a major influence on Ellis throughout his career.

The sixth track is split in two by a minute of silence, the second half a wholly unexpected and viciously twisted drum n' bass version of Cabaret Voltaire's 'Nag Nag Nag'. Like much of what is here, it's beefy and groovy and a little unsettling, not least because the lyrics are crystal clear. Mono heads this way please.

So how good is 'Untitled Vinyl Remix”'? Very. It really is a treat. Hunt it down. Get it before it gets you.

Push ( Editor of Electronic Sound )