An air of nostalgia swathes RX101’s debut record, Like Yesterday, as if like a chance encounter with an old friend, bringing back shared memories of some intangible ghostly past. You inherently know this music, even if you don’t know exactly how. You know it through the hiss of an overdubbed tape, electronics constrained to the narrow bandwidths of an old DIY recording device and the dusty sounds of workhorse machines, bred for something completely different than what the producer had in store for it. You know this music, like you remember your youth through the memories of your parents, and the truth is you don’t know it. How could you… it hasn’t even been released yet.
RX101 is a bedroom producer also called Erik Jong whose work had laid unnoticed and unloved for almost two decades, gathering dust somewhere in the Netherlands, before Suction Records came along, dusted off the cobwebs and released as a set of two EP’s and an album of archival material dating back to 1997-1999. Proceed with caution however and don’t get too swept up in the tantalising aspects of a PR back-story (“Like Yesterday” might be eluding to some hidden agenda), and instead marvel at the musical achievements of this album for what they are, calling on some long-forgotten palette of dance music in order to communicate something sincere, innocent and above all universal that even the most futurists personalities among us will find hard to ignore.
It takes us back to Aphex Twin, Authecre and Boards of Canada at a time of uninhibited experimentation and obdurate youth, where anything goes, and the new landscape of electronic music was still fresh, unadulterated and above all, interesting. From the Caustic Window-like stomp of Tunnel to the floating Boards of Canada quality of The End of RX-101, there’s a versatility and dynamism to RX-101 that we have collectively forgotten existed in electronic- and club music before the ubiquitous 4/4 kick and functional demands of the music over-simplified this very complex music.
The music very clearly stems from fixed sources, in this case a Roland collection of synths and drum machines, but where the sound-design aspects of this music remain fixed, a charming melodic- and harmonic nature exists in songs through captivating forms. There is magnetism to tracks like Bloom pt.1/2 and Like Yesterday that almost works like pop music, subduing the primitive sound of the work and allowing for a little more than just nostalgia in this situation. It’s not like listening to a 90’s rave You Tube playlist or buying the latest Aphex Twin release in the hope finding something that was lost long ago, but irretrievable in a modern context. Like Yesterday is a little more complex than that and like Aphex’s X-Tal, Boards of Canada’s Everything you do is a Balloon, and The Orb’ Little Fluffy Clouds, there’s a timelessness to RX101’s music on this album. It’s helped along by the fact that all these tracks here are very much album tracks, the functionality of the dance floor accounted for, but behind layers of quirky vocal samples, expressive melodic arrangements and song forms where the progressive in House and Techno was still uncharted territory.
I still however feel a sense of trepidation going into music like this – an appealing back-story to entice the listener behind the covers – for fear of little more than a gimmick awaiting me, but in Like Yesterday I feel confident that the music is actually quite effective on its own. It’s an album whose charm and versatility keeps you going back to it, and I think it’s very safe to say, clearly not trend orientated. The parallels to earlier dance music are all that exist and if you think you remember anything it’s just that collective memory talking, because RX-101 is very unique in the context of the present.