Can Ezekiel Honig Be All Things to All People?


New York based DJ/producer Ezekiel Honig made a name for himself by producing gorgeous ambient records, then branching out into techno and sonic points beyond. Now focusing his energy on his fledgling indie label, Anticipate Recordings, can Honig still be all things to many people?

As the founder of both the renowned minimal techno imprint Microcosm Music and, more recently, the sonically adventurous Anticipate Record-ings, as well as an active producer and frequent performer in his own right, Ezekiel Honig has long since established himself as a towering presence in New York City’s sprawling underground electronic music community. Functioning as a dialogue between the producer and his surrounding environment, Honig’s impressive discography blends fragmented field recordings and processed acoustic instruments with elements of techno, house, and ambient. The resulting sound is a lush pan-genre bricolage that operates comfortably within a space nestled between the living room and the dance floor.

Honig’s latest album, Surfaces Of A Broken Marching Band, ranks among his most accomplished works. Envisioned as an encapsulation of what he hopes Anticipate Recordings represents, the album merges the myriad styles that have come to define the label’s catalog thus far into a complementary selection of tracks.

“The overt ambiance, the electro-acoustic processing, the muted, broken-up techno rhythms. I think these are areas that could develop into individual albums,” Honig says, “yet the combination of them is what the label is aiming for, whether that’s within a single release or as a larger statement.”

Far removed from the dub techno reductions that typify much of his earlier work, Honig has come a long way from the DJ music on which he cut his teeth. With the emphasis placed more fully on the acoustic sonic elements and pop structures that comprised the framework for his last album, Scattered Practices, “Surfaces Of A Broken Marching Band” can be downright cinematic at times, albeit in a hushed and reserved manner.

“For this album I knew that I wanted to keep going further with the idea of processed acoustic instruments, and I wanted there to be a stronger visual sense, a stronger sense of place…to at least attempt to take it outside the strict context of music and closer to sound that could relate to film,” Honig says. But it wasn’t until after he had wrapped production that the picture he had in his head all along came into focus: “Once the album was done, I was connecting the dots about the whole and realized that I was always thinking of an imaginary band with a bunch of broken, makeshift instruments.”

Initially introduced to electronic music during the heyday of New York’s rave scene back in the ‘90s, Honig was enamored with the DIY nature of the culture and the many new styles that were then beginning to emerge. He started playing out as a DJ during that time, but only made the jump into the studio in 2000. “I’m glad that I had large blocks of time observing and learning more about several kinds of electronic music, initially just going to events for years, and then DJing for years before making the jump into producing,” he says.

“Anticipate is where my heart’s at,” he explains, “and really closer to the label I always wanted to have.”

But rather than referencing dance music specifically, the wide spectrum of influences he encountered as a DJ have found their way into his work. “I think it allowed me to get more of a sense of things and I think/hope that it lets me acknowledge different styles of music in what I make—not necessarily in an overt sense, but in a filtered way of making certain choices because of influences that are trickling towards me from years ago, in a subconscious way.”

Of course, Honig’s sound has become synonymous with field recordings and an approach rooted in musique concrète, re-contextualizing sounds from the surrounding world as musical source material. Taking inspiration from early Matthew Herbert records, Honig began amassing field recordings of rustling leaves, crowded subway stations and the world around him, later building them into beats and textures to be woven into his downtempo arrangements.

“The sound design aspect has always been something that drew me into the electronic music I loved. It wasn’t necessarily about how a groove felt (although that helps) but the sounds within the groove,” Honig explains. “Having interesting sounds for their own sake rather than instruments that everyone can recognize is what grabbed me, even if it was a processed sample of something.”

With one foot planted in the techno community and the other within the nebulous ambient scene, Honig sometimes finds himself feeling like a man without a country, especially as he finds his music evolving. Soon, he’ll be closing up shop at Microcosm Music in order to focus full-time on Anticipate, a move that marks a decided shift in the artist’s priorities.

“Anticipate is where my heart’s at,” he explains, “and really closer to the label I always wanted to have.”

And with three new artist albums in the works for 2009, as well as a multi-media collaboration between Mark Templeton and aAron Munson, it’s safe to say that Anticipate—and Ezekiel Honig—will be around raising the bar for the electronic music scene for quite some time.

Words: Carl Ritger
Image: Alex Cao

as featured in Issue 25

Darren Ressler

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