Album Appreciation: Zaxxon by El Hombre Al Agua

Well we’ve just gone past the first ‘Bandcamp Friday’ of the year and, as usual, my inbox was packed with emails from bands and labels; creating a virtual… and slightly curated… bazaar of weird and wonderful music. Such is its popularity these days that it seems like it’s increasingly difficult for musicians to get their message across. However, if one description screamed out at me it was this one from El Hombre Al Agua who described his new release as featuring…

11 new electronic explorations inspired by slow rides thru Brooklyn, Miami bass, minimal techno, Edgar Froese, Logan’s Run, artificial intelligence, Werner Rainer Fassbinder, 70s action figures, a violent mugging, cities blanketed with bug spray, self-manifestation of spiritual beings and hanging around video arcades in 1982.

Now that is quite a list, and one that I found very intriguing, particularly given that El Hombre Al Agua is also known as Dave Read, who put out the rather amazing compilation ‘Addressing The Cosmic Unfolding: An Exploration of Canadian Ambient and Experimental Musics’ last year.

In many ways this feels like a continuation of that project to some extent given the eclectic nature of what’s on offer here… certainly in an ‘electronica’ sense. As someone who was turned on to electronic music by Jean Michel Jarre’s ‘Oxygene’ and the subsequent early works of Gary Numan, Human League and John Foxx (I circled back to Kraftwerk later) onwards… this feels like both a Cook’s tour of electronica AND something that feels strangely fresh.

What for me is striking about this collection is that it at the same time feels experimental and ‘out there’ while at the same time feels somehow comforting and accessible. I think that this is down to the nostalgic elements within this music which certainly do hark back to times that evoke that feeling… 80s arcade games… 90s raves… 00s techno; and in bringing them all together makes the album feel like a sort of electronic patchwork quilt that you can virtually wrap yourself up in… a lockdown comfort blanket that not only elicits warmth within you but actively keeps your mind going, not only in spotting those influences and references… enabling you to actively delve into the newness of it all too.

In the wrong hands this project could come across in a cold detached manner with the sort of alienation that the likes of Numan and Human League were displaying in their early years… but this collection of tracks has a warmth and humanity to it that elicit connections rather than isolation and dysfunction… it’s a set that fully lives up to its original billing.

‘Zaxxon’ is released by Noiseagonymayhem and is available on cassette and download here.



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