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Anytime a prodigious artist unveils a new side project, the launch generates a plethora of anticipation, but also carries with it a degree of apprehension. Too often, the producer’s “alter-ego” may seem to be either needless extension that differs little from his or her primary endeavor. Or, worse yet, the artist risks losing steam by exploring a new sound that just doesn’t capture listeners quite as resoundingly.
Despite ample opportunities, both of these fates have eluded Alex Ridha. The German auteur has managed to inject the signature stylistic traits of his Boys Noize legacy into his various auditory avocations without becoming stale in the slightest. Indeed, his inimitable presence in Handbraekes, Dog Blood, and Octave Minds — his groups with Mr. Oizo, Skrillex, and Chilly Gonzales, respectively — is easily recognizable, yet all of the aforementioned are entirely distinct from the timbre of his solo work.
Despite Ridha’s veteran “super-duo” status, he conquered a new challenge in August, when he debuted his first solo alias, ELAX. When news arose that Boys Noize would be producing under a different moniker for Solomun’s Diynamic imprint, it was unclear how the project would fare. The notion of Boys Noize adopting a deeper, more subdued outlook on house and techno was endlessly scintillating, but how would he temper his fundamental industrial and acidic proclivities? How would he bridge the gap between Hamburg and Berlin?
When Ridha released his first ELAX single, “Reaktor,” in August, the result spoke for itself; his Diynamic debut retained the raunchiness which built his audience, but the restraint which built that of the track’s backing label. Still, one may have wondered how the project would progress without becoming one-note.
With the release of his first ELAX EP, Alex Ridha has staunchly removed any doubts which may have lingered regarding the trajectory of his new pseudonym. Spanning two tracks, Sueño isn’t a long record, but it provides a comprehensive outline of what Ridha’s vision for ELAX seems to be.
In the EP’s titular track, Ridha ventures into completely new territory. Where one might categorize the bulk his Boys Noize oeuvre as nightmarish, “Sueño” evokes the sonic sensations of the sedate, yet mystifying dream which its title (the Spanish for “Dream”) suggests. Atop quasi-Balearic percussions, Ridha weaves soothing chord progressions with eldritch top-line synths, which possess just a hint of the frenzied sounds that often dominate the Boys Noize project. Yet, undeniably, ELAX is something new.
In “Rhumba,” the EP’s second track, Ridha veers toward a higher energy, yet simultaneously, further away from his signature stylistic tendencies. Even the most well-versed Boys Noize fan would lack the slightest clue of its origin upon a blind listening. Containing only minimal synthesis and sampling, “Rhumba” draws its essence from its house-driven rhythms, which would would find themselves more at home in a chic club than at a raucous warehouse.
Suffice it to say, in Ridha’s first EP as ELAX, he impeccably makes his way from Berlin to Hamburg, leaving the listener to daydream about what comes after Sueño.
Boys Noize will play his first set as ELAX on December 7 at Sound in LA. Tickets are available here.
Featured image by AJRPhoto.