ECCO2K
PXE


5.0
classic

Review

by JackIvy USER (1 Reviews)
May 25th, 2022 | 1 replies


Release Date: 2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: It’s pixie music

(This is an abridged version of a review I wrote on AOTY.org. That review is much more personal, and comes to a total of 11,000 words. That review focuses on things aside from the music, like the animated video.)

Where do you go artistically after releasing one of the most polarizing and unique musical experiences of 2019, especially one that left so many people utterly speechless yet satisfied for an entire lifetime? Making one of these musical experiences that has been discussed everywhere online, with mostly positive waves of praise, and people who can deeply relate to the content within is no small task; very few artists have been able to achieve this feat. How could you possibly follow an effort like this up, and create a project that can make everyone happy?

Perhaps this very specific question poses itself most interestingly to UK-rooted Nigerian/Swede singer Ecco2K (né Zak Gaterud - Arogundade), the curator and vocalist behind 2019’s “E”, without a doubt the best album of that year and perhaps even of the 2010’s decade, in my honest opinion. Ecco2K belongs to the Swedish musical group “Drain Gang”, where time after time again he has proven himself to be the best member of the group, mainly due to his strengths in production, writing, and conveying of true emotions, mostly showcased on their debut album “E”. “E” was a extremely detailed and musically layered album about drug dependency, self-hatred, racism, longing, dysphoria, love, privilege etc., and to many people it was the first real metamorphosis of Ecco2K; one which showed the growth and musical evolution of his craft, going from a husky-voiced sorcerer which we saw on “guardianAngels”, to a lithe vocal presence on any song he was on. It would make sense that his first follow up to “E” would be the next stepping stone in his journey of self discovery which was explored on “E”. Hidden track “Life After Life” was our first tease at what Ecco2K was capable of with this direction. Ecco2K’s follow up “PXE” is a very logical follow up to “E” looking at the themes discussed and hinted at. At around ten minutes, “PXE” is taking this very personal process slowly, but with a detailed animated video to pair with it, “PXE” gains a whole new slew of possible meanings that I’m sure the artist intended for fans to theorize over while they continue to discover themselves alone. Like a smoke bomb thrown into a crowd, Ecco2K has quite possibly fooled us all with this EP which might seem surface level at first listen, but gains more meanings the more you look into it. Even with the surprise drop of the brand new “Crest” with Bladee, we see Ecco2K continuing in this direction while flawlessly using both of his outstanding vocal ranges. Back to “PXE”, analyzing this EP is increasingly difficult because of how little we actually know about Ecco2K; even if you’ve been a fan of him since 2013, 2015, 2019, 2022…etc, one thing all of his fans can confidently say is that he’s such an illusive personality. We don’t know much about his past other than his connection with fellow “Drain Gang” rapper Bladee that ties back to their school days. Ecco2K assumes a very mysterious persona or two on “PXE” which makes it so right field and lovable compared to the rest of their small discography. Further on my list of compliments about “PXE” is the sheer amount of power and emotions Zak Arogundade has managed to cram into the vessel “PXE” and even “Ecco2K” as a whole; the musical and media project that has been active since 2011; cryptic messages and haunting backstories follow the artist’s life and “2K” seems to be the perfect way to let Zak spill what he can’t with words to the world.

The “PXE” experience follows the story of the two main identities that Ecco2K has shown in his life. These are visualized as humanoid drawings which are inspired from the anime art style. The two have different visual appearances, but possess similar names, both being a play on Ecco2K’s stage name, so I’ll refer to them as “Virgin Ecco” and “Chad Echo”. The former is a slender, insecure, bandage-ridden, masculine-presenting sprite who introduces this experience of an EP/video by receiving a whisper of “Turn inside out to the outside in” and later “Come out of your shell / Come into the light” presumably from “Chad Echo”, a bold, femme-presenting, beautiful, long-haired blonde (that Ecco2K seems to identify more with now if you take a little glance at the “Amygdala” music video with close friend Bladee, showcasing them both in flamboyant clothing and beautiful makeup, courtesy of Arongundade’s Swedish-born mother) Echo and Ecco seem to be two of the “three sides” that Ecco2K mentions in interviews and other media; as mentioned, he seems to have “one side for himself, one side for his friends, and one side that the public sees.”, “Virgin Ecco” seems to be the identity that Ecco wants to take away and not identity as during their own life due to personal identity struggles, which seems to be a huge chunk of what makes up this EP; being how Ecco2K isn’t fond of how people perceive him. “Chad Echo” can be seen lugging a can of gasoline over their pixely back which is a throwback to Ecco2K’s Peroxide video (where the artist takes multiple swigs of the bottle) which is arguably one of his most iconic and worthful songs with a strong message of self hatred and insecurity due to facing racism as a mixed person in the predominantly white Sweden. “PXE”, as a title, also seems to be a small reference to the progressive disorder Pseudoxanthoma elasticum, which is when deposits of calcium and other minerals collect in elastic fibers. Ecco doesn’t make his drug dependency a secret, and that theme made up a majority of “E”. (Not to mention, the artist’s name is a possible reference to double “k” (ketamine) crystals) Those affected with PXE might have bumps on their necks and arms as well, which might be why Ecco is seen with patches on his skin; perhaps these could be nicotine patches or bandages, however. This, like many other of my conclusions, is strictly my own interpretation of Ecco2K’s lyrics, a skill which I use very often. (With my analytical words, I’d like to make it very clear that in no way is everything that I say correct or factual to Ecco2K’s life. The only person who knows truly what all of these references and themes mean is Ecco2K himself.) “PXE” additionally is primarily in two languages, English and Swedish, the latter appearing in a phone message that Ecco receives in “No***’s Song”. The vocals from Ecco2K tend to be delivered in a higher, falsetto pitch which has been seen in songs such as “Vanilla Sky”, “Girls just want to have fun”, “Amygdala”, “Lip Service”, “Pollen”, and many more. The thick voice that Ecco once used on early songs in his musical career is replaced by this breathy voice, and this might either be more comfortable for the artist, or just a stylistic choice that they prefer to use nowadays. Since his feature on Bladee’s “Obedient” from 2018’s “Red Light” album, this style has been used very often by Ecco2K, and “PXE” finally converts its blissful energy to a full project. The musical absence of Ecco2K is also the other reason why I was initially so excited about this project; Ecco2K has only dropped one album prior to this and a handful of singles and features on Spotify, the main platform which I use to listen to music.

Style wise, “PXE” as a whole reminds me a lot of Kid Cudi’s sophomore album “Man on the Moon II” in the way it combines elements of glitch pop, art pop, cloud rap, alternative rock, and additionally new sounds that weren’t solidified with Scott’s 2010 album, such as post-industrial music, bubblegum bass, digicore, and dare I say it, hyperpop. Electronic-based instrumentals and falsetto vocals using a breathy pitch are two main components of this project, and both are ideas that Ecco2K has been experimenting with for a while. For a ten minute EP, this is a lot of content to mash into each other, but Ecco2K knows the strengths he possesses as a producer and vocalist which makes this project all too much more enjoyable. Another comparison I can draw is to Yeule’s “Glitch Princess” album from early 2022; while “Serotonin 2” resembled “E” very heavily (both being sprawling, ambient landscapes with delicate vocals), the messages of self expression and hatred as well as certain other topics really helps me bring the similarities of these two projects together, despite one being ten minutes and one being…five hours. “PXE” reminds me of “My name is Nat”, in the way as it literally is just an introduction to the projects, but one that shows what the artist was inspired by and how they have changed since their last albums. Seeing as both Yeule and Ecco2K have been more open with themselves through the online and media, this gives another similarity between the two artists which helps me enjoy them both even more. “In The Flesh” gives me the same absolutely bittersweet feeling that “I <3 U” gives me. Both songs are honest glitchy art pop masterpieces that are experimental but not unconventional in the slightest. Both convey the same longing feeling and a hint of self hatred as well. “Jalouse” ticks the same chords as “Don’t Be So Hard on Your Own Beauty”, with the message of loving oneself and the difficulty that comes with that in itself, as well as the acoustic guitars and elements of both of the songs. Both are perhaps the strongest songs on their respective projects as well, and I can’t help but wish that the artists made more songs in the same vein. “No***’s Song” and “Friendly Machine” are also songs which I associate with each other because of the similar message of body dysphoria, as well as the similar jagged instrumentation and rushed vocal inflections. The latter is fleshed out more as a song itself only because of its runtime, but both pack the same emotional punch and are perhaps both some of my favorite songs from Yeule and Ecco respectively. Both “Big Air” and “The Things They Did for Me out of Love” both are similar in the sense that they both are large, ambient pieces at the end of their respective albums. While Big Air’s lyrics are up to debate, and I’ve seen a lot of discourse on what they could be, the sound itself, being Ecco’s looped cries, is similar to Yeule’s note holds and ambience noises on “Out of Love”, an absolutely beautiful song which yes, I have listened to in the full if you are interested. Both are additionally the songs which I believe the artists have been gearing up to make since the start of their careers; both of which have been very interesting to follow, especially seeing how they’ve both learned how to accept themselves for who they really are. Yeule and Ecco2K are both incredibly important artists to me and my own life; having such strong POC figures making music is absolutely wonderful, and it’s amazing how they both accept their insecurities through music. Yeule’s graceful voice and their vocal inflections live in complete harmony with Ecco’s breathy singing. “Glitch Princess” may only be more developed than “PXE” due to the runtime that Yeule decided on; her decision to include the closer song brings the album to five hours-and-a-half of pixely goodness. Ecco chose the easier way out, arguably; their decision to make “PXE” so short is frustrating yet satisfying, but maybe it wouldn’t be so beloved to me if it was forty minutes. Anyways, comparisons and inspirations aside, I wanted to break down each track of “PXE” to fully explain why this EP is so dear to me.

“PXE”, the intro of this EP, is very cryptic on paper, yet crystal clear sound wise. Although yes, the sound is very brief and mysterious, taking the first part of the song literally when it comes to the lyrics really sets the mood for what “PXE'', or Pixie music is; “Breathe life / Breathe slow / Breathe life / Easy.” is really a great way to start an experience that revolves around self acceptance of flaws, as well as warning the listener that this EP and song doesn’t follow exact musical norms, similar to Ecco’s musical expression in the past. Ecco’s music has also stressed the art of mystery before, and this feels like the most logical step for it to go. (that being, an epic collage of sounds and sensations) The first flash of self-acceptance/hatred comes in the video as Echo gives a message to the predominant Ecco with the aforementioned “Come out of your shell / Come into the light / Come over—”, ending with a cut off message that maybe would be the last key in decoding this EP, because as you read this review, there still are questions that I have. But Zak even explains the title and central inspiration/meaning of PXE for us in the second leg of the song with an interview snippet which reads as follows: “It's like I told Vogue / I call it Pixie music / (Pixie music?) / You know? / Brutal grace / Combat ballerina (being his alt Twitter account) / Ok, I've got to go.” The specific Vogue interview spawned a set of shirtless Ecco pictures which are always appreciated under my roof, but behind the thirst factor, I find the rest of his words very meaningful to understand his works. One snapshot of this interview (which is purely words) is increasingly more important to me, and that’s the “but my idea of perfection has changed as I’ve gotten to know myself better. I let chaos back in. That’s what allowed E to happen.”, and as expected, Ecco explaining this himself is better than something a random writer such as myself could come up with, but I can’t help but think that these words about “E” apply themselves to “PXE” even more (which Ecco might have been intending). And of course, the words mentioned in the actual song itself “…And there is variety. “Time,” for instance, evokes the sweaty, beyond-tired feeling of a magical night fading into morning. “It’s pixie music,” Arogundade says.” It’s ‘pixie’ music is unironically the best way to put it, seeing as it already evokes such a chaotic and emotional scene already, and I can’t help but wonder if the ideas of this EP were already fleshed out in 2019 but Ecco just couldn’t bring it to a soundscape until now. Pixies are genderless, mysterious and playful creatures which are incredibly hard to understand at times; Ecco’s voice even resembles what I would imagine a four-inch-tall magical creature’s voice to sound like. As the music goes on, this theme of bliss and being free gets even stronger. Regardless, I’m extremely thankful that 2K was able to even craft something at this level at this point in his career, and it’s fundamentally the perfect intro for a true musical experience such as this one. While not being a full song, “PXE” fills its purpose: it’s loud, random, and hard to digest at first, similar to other music released under the “Drain Gang” group.

“Okay, so the first track is called ‘In The Flesh’” is how we are introduced to the first vocal song on “PXE”, and it’s undeniably one of Ecco’s strongest solo songs so far. Many of my favorite Ecco2K songs are all very different from each other; “guardianAngels” and “holdmedownlikegravity” are stylistically different from songs like “Peroxide” and “Pollen”. More indie influenced than Ecco’s previous work, “In the Flesh” resembles a brand new sound that hasn’t just been explored in Ecco’s musical ventures, but also in indie music in general. Never have I seen such a raw song which still can sound so polished and clean. Sung in a high falsetto, this song is perhaps the most defining moment on the EP as it covers a lot of the aforementioned lyrical themes and musical ventures. Although at its core, “In the Flesh” is a raw indie pop song: while not being in the same vein as Clairo or Rex Orange County, it undeniably resembles the genre as a whole with delicate touches of other genres and influences; in my opinion, this solidifies how much Ecco2K can bend the rules of music in general. Compared to the other songs on “PXE”, “In The Flesh” is musically structured the most normally, with a solidified hook, verse, and bridge. He seems to pose a longing question “Is there all there is to it?” multiple times in this song without ever getting a real answer from anyone in his life. From here on, the video displays lyrics that are formatted like conversations Ecco and Echo have among themselves; once again, Echo seems to be the more secure and confident of the two. The start of the song, “Who else? I wonder how I’ll find new love / Someone says “you’ve got to get help” / And I can’t help asking myself, ‘Is this all there is to it?’” depicts Ecco being at an understandable low when it comes to finding a relationship or even a feeling of being loved in general. His help comes from no one other than himself, personified as Echo (the “someone” in “someone says you’ve got to get help’”) The still image of the two sides once again comes into fruition here, and it seems to represent these opening lines. “In the flesh / When no one’s watching I’m someone else” most likely alludes to Ecco’s uncertainty in their own body, or flesh, because of the split that we’ve seen; that being the three sides of Ecco2K: public, friends, alone. It’s extremely saddening to see as somebody who has gone through the same thing, but it seems like Ecco can only be himself while he is alone, if only to relish in desolation and his own thoughts, and the image that we all have of him is much different than his “someone else” that might be a preferred state of identity for him. The video matches these feelings, as it shows Ecco sitting atop an electrical tower once again, where he is alone and playing his guitar hunched-over. Directly after, he states how he “cuts his head off”, presumably as he switches between identities/personas based on who he is around, which in itself is a very stressful circumstance especially if you feel so disconnected from one of your own personal identities. The next lines discuss another all too familiar feeling to Ecco: talking without being very sure of your identity. The likening of a persona-ridden mask to “talking out your head/neck” is very clever too. He’s saying what he truly thinks about a certain subject without modifying it to match who he’s trying to be socially. As sung, he’s speaking not from his head, but from his heart, so it makes complete sense that his words would match what he truly feels and not what society or whatever group deems acceptable, hence why Ecco feels like no one is even listening to what they truly feel. Later on the EP, he also details more times of speaking suddenly without even thinking and wanting to cut his head off directly after in an act of flustered shame. It seems like he’s not even necessarily new to this feeling either, as the next line directly jabs “Who would have guessed?”, further detailing how alone he must feel in whatever situation he’s going through. “Growing a new face” to fit in seems to be his next goal however, which could represent his switch to Echo or perhaps a whole new persona that he can only use in front of this group now. The lyrical themes of race which “E” explored return on the next line of “chocolate will kill you softly”, as Ecco seems to be referring to his ethnicity and skin color as chocolate, or something which is “killing” a factor of his own mental state due to it being unusual for a person living in Sweden. Additionally, his color seems to be destroying whatever confidence Ecco’s referring to in the song because he feels so different from friends and people in general. Race acceptance was one of the pillars which made “E” so special, so it’s always a refreshing experience to hear Ecco discuss this topic on this song and EP, which is mainly focused on acceptance. The next line and its reference to Almond Crush Pocky is a little wake up call that the EP might have other focuses, even if this reference may not be a reference to cyanide gas (as others have mentioned), but rather snack food, adding a humorous element to the line. The theme of sorrow and longing comes back with the next lines which once again press on the topic that there’s “something else out there” that Ecco has yet to discover, which is limiting his creativity and mental state since he yearns to “know what it feels like”. He’s not only trapped in his own identity battle but additionally it seems to be limiting his whole life at this point. Compared to other Ecco2K songs, “In the Flesh may be more relatable to a standard audience because of the lack of references to experiences and perks/downsides of ketamine and other related drugs, which a good part of Ecco’s audience can’t relate to in the slightest. The visual gives us a pretty good understanding of what Ecco may be looking for, since he’s still sitting on top of the same electrical tower alone, so maybe a faraway land where he can possibly feel more free is what’s on the pixel’s mind. The next lines stress the overwhelming sense of loneliness which he still feels by showcasing desperate wails for someone he can “have fun” with, which can be interpreted in many different ways, obviously. Ecco lets some of his other wants free too, including the desperate want for a “human body” and to “be someone”, once again showing struggle with personal identity and perhaps a hatred of his own body/appearance. The analogies for Ecco’s desire to find who he really is during this time are all very respectable and I’m very glad that he’s able to put even the most personal wants into the lyrics of this song and to the public in general, as identity struggle really is one of the hardest things to ever go through; the only person who can truly figure Ecco2K out is no one but himself only. The visuals change, and they change from being a candid shot of Ecco from above on the tower back to the slightly hunched sitting position. It’s very important to note that identity struggle may not hit a person all at once or even all in a time period but despite that it’s still a very interesting way to reveal yourself and your insecurities to the public, and I respect Ecco2K a lot for taking that risk. And even at the end of the song, it’s clear that Ecco still hasn’t found who he wants to be yet and that’s why this chorus is repeating itself; he’s still channeling Echo for help on his own unique identity, repeating his question “Is this all there is to it?” before spiraling into the second bridge of the song which consists of a more powerful demand to fall into hedonism. ‘Meeting someone + having fun + feeling like he doesn’t belong to his own body’ seems to be the repeat cycle that Ecco is experiencing, and in frustration, he repeats his question one last time. Me, a listener, still can’t help but ask myself Ecco’s question. “Is this all there is to it?” At barely two minutes, this song packs a lot into its bones and leaves a lot of unanswered questions about not only the creative direction, but the state of the real Ecco2K as well as his eponymous character’s identity arc. “In the Flesh”, with its developed indietronica base and glitch/noise/art/bitpop influences as well as a strong indie pop and rock soundscape, really makes a case on why it should be ranked among the artist’s best songs of all time. Additionally, the song and EP are both self produced. Now Ecco2K’s sound doesn’t rely on a Gud or Whitearmor beat that was made for him. (both of which are great regardless) Before the listener even has enough time to process anything from “In the Flesh”, the EP progresses into a second, acoustic-inspired track.

“Jalouse”, the second song on “PXE”, can honestly be interpreted in many different ways and each one would make sense based on what we know about the artist, Ecco2K’s, public life (which may be next to nothing, we soon learn). “Jalouse”, with its focus on personal struggles and how open you can truly be about them, is such a stark change of flow since Ecco2K had spent the last song seemingly spilling his guts without thinking. This track shows the repercussions of being too open with the world or even perhaps yourself. Ecco seems to address this with the very first line of the song “Everybody knows your business”, as he seems to talk with flamboyant Echo, who is portrayed as somebody who is very open with themselves and seemingly the world too. However, Ecco seems to not be the happiest with his other identity seemingly being more open with a certain group based on his whisper of “You don’t have to act different around us”, which could be referring to Ecco’s friends, or maybe even just himself, since Ecco and Echo are one of the same. A jealous spike is poking Ecco’s animated back in an increasingly emotional manner when he looks at how Echo can be so comfortable with himself even when his other side (of the whole Ecco2K) is clearly lacking such self confidence and respect. The “Ridgecrest” mentioned in the next line is one of the many quotes on this EP which I’m genuinely confused about, but a logical explanation could refer to the town Ridgecrest in California, which seems to be a crime-infested town which is known for low income housing and dirt biking, which could possibly tie into the next line “Go endless, go heaven” that shows how Ecco’s jealousy towards Echo makes him wish that his more confident side would just crash his dirt bike and die in this dangerous area. Obviously, dismissing a part of your identity is not a standard behavior even if you can’t bring yourself to stand it, which is why Ecco seems to sing about it instead of acting on the urges. Ecco and Echo are one in the same, but through this rift it forms the assumption that they are two different people, which is also backed by the video and visual distances. Ecco is envious of Echo, Mr. Arogundade’s newly accepted main identity because he still is conflicted on what side of life he truly wants to pursue. Ecco, as a character, seems to act more and more impulsively throughout the EP and this track is him being caught in crystal-clear 4K. The aggression and taunts towards his other side for simply wanting something really shows just how impulsive someone can possibly turn because of pure jealousy. The repetition of “You want it” shows how Ecco may actually yearn for something (as we know he does, based on “In the Flesh”) the same way Echo does, which shows a hypocritical side which Ecco must accept in the near future. The next verse shows how Ecco is once again pushing out a fake identity for the public which he must keep up with, and this time it’s one that embodies toxic masculinity, which we eventually learn that neither Ecco nor Echo (both/us) would particularly want to identity with, but due to insecurity and hidden jealousy, he acts “Hella toxic, so precious” to put out the image that he doesn’t have any flaws or anything to be ashamed of in any way. As the verse continues, listeners realize that it’s actually breaking Ecco2K apart even more, because he doesn’t even feel himself anymore and “not special”, but regardless and out of fear, he keeps up the fake personality instead of showing his true colors which they both fear that they might get judged for, whether it be because of appearance, past actions, or some other personal reason that Ecco2K hasn’t released to the public. In the following interlude, the “You want it” might refer to Ecco/Echo wanting to accept the new part of himself, but not being able to due to fear of judgement from within or outside. After a solid twenty times of repeating himself, Ecco2K finally changes the way he presents his words, which might show a new meaning: he’s questioning himself, and his identities, for even being jealous of him in the first place. “It’s nothing special” seems to be his way to cover up his secret loathing. The second verse, while far too short, is another endearing look at how vulnerable 2k must truly feel. It’s delivered in a very strained yet passionate voice and it discusses how he might identify differently now, not just physically, but perhaps a different way that might deal with a whole other subject entirely. Ecco is asking himself to at least “wish him luck” whether they love him or not, and that they don’t even have to care about his body anymore, because he’ll love himself either way, which would end the track in a very bittersweet way but the track isn’t concluded yet. Ecco2K confesses that he “doesn’t have to be like this” in the sense that he doesn’t have to be “[his own] dream boy anymore”. Whether or not Ecco is questioning their gender or not isn’t my place as a reviewer or listener to speak, but if he truly does feel this way I can relate to the music on a whole other step, and whether it was intentional or not, I’m able to connect to it on a deeper level. Echo seems to be the one speaking these lines because maybe he’s the part of Ecco2K who is questioning his identity more than Ecco; perhaps, he is alluding to not wishing to be masculine presenting or masculine identifying anymore, but until he makes an announcement the most I can pull from this are hopes that he eventually can find a state where he is comfortable in his own skin. The ending of “More than I care to admit, I love you”, spoken by Echo, is such a satisfying end to the song as well. Facing the fear of showing your true self to the public is perhaps the hardest thing about a metamorphosis besides accepting yourself first, and the consequences of doing so may scare him too much to ever be honest; “love me not” alluded to people who may not accept his new direction, but at the end, it doesn’t matter if he’s Ecco or Echo to the public, because he still loves everyone and in return wants to be loved back by them all. I can relate deeply and appreciate this message no matter what he means by it; even if I just over analyzed a song that was actually about simple love games, finding new meanings in lyrics is something that can make me enjoy an artist’s music even more. The conversation at the end of the song between Ecco and Echo hits a lot harder after understanding how the lyrics may tie with the artist on a deeper level. Ecco begging somebody he constantly feels like he’s inferior against to just wish him luck, to be met with the serene whisper of “I’ll love you either way / it doesn’t have to be like this” really shows why the visual experience is necessary to enjoy PXE to its fullest. Musically, the song is absolutely wonderful; the guitar playing that Ecco does is very impressive, and honestly although it isn’t absolutely flawless, it’s very authentic and sounds a lot better than any preset that he could have found online. The chords are very infectious and just wonderful to hear in change to an electronic hip-hop inspired beat that associates like Bladee often use. Ecco also proves for me on this EP just how different he is than all of the other members of Drain Gang and closely related Sadboys. This song has the same emotionally charged lyrics that “Agony” by Yung Lean possesses, and while I adore both songs, I can’t help but feel that Ecco2K pulls off this isolated feeling even better. He’s truly one of the only artists even out there who I believe could even make a project of this caliber, so emotionally charged that you can envision yourself in the artist’s situation even if you don’t have much in common. The glitch elements as the song changes key is also absolutely perfect, and after this song ends I can’t help but yearn in the same way Ecco and Echo do, but instead for more content from the artist which is in the same vein as this. The last thing we hear on “Jalouse” is the Swedish word for “Hello”, “Hallå”, which introduces a phone voicemail on the next song.

“No***’s Song” is such an interesting track, just from the title alone. People have theorized on what the three accented marks could be possibly concealing. Some logical guesses include Noomi Rapace, a famous Swedish actress who was in a picture with Ecco2K posted prior to the release of “PXE” on @antontammi’s Instagram account. That’s really the only glaring clue that could lead anyone to even know what it means, and there’s a big chance that the song has nothing to do with the actress; instead referring to a possible partner, chosen name, friend, or any other significant part of Ecco2K which the public is unaware of. Unlike the other songs on “PXE”, “No***’s Song” seems to be left purposefully unfinished, and it also seems to introduce a whole other idea about what the real meaning of “PXE” music could possibly be. (Pixies are genderless creatures in their original context.) The song starts with a voicemail message / call that Ecco receives (perhaps a call due to the “Hallä?” that ended “Jalouse”). The message reads as following “Hej, min kärlek, min vackra Zak / Det är så att polisen vill se dig nu / Så vi [?] på nåt jävla fält / Vi sitter bakom ett träd, på en äng / Ge mig adressen så kommer vi till dig istället / Om det är lungt, det skulle va najs att se dig / Det här är bara fult, det är det fulaste av Sverige” which in English (the language which I am writing this review in) “Hi, my love, my beautiful Zak / The police want to see you now / So we [?] In some ***ing field / We are sitting behind a tree, on a meadow / Give me the address and we will come to you instead / If it's calm, it would be nice to see you / This is just ugly, it's the ugliest thing about Sweden…” Immediately, the message solidifies itself as one of the most random and hard-to-decode things about “PXE”, as some of the message is untranslatable by even a native speaker. Starting with the beginning of the message, I can assume that it’s from a close friend or a possible partner, alluding to the three empty spaces in the title. Whoever it’s from seems to be a private matter, and one which I can respect if Ecco2K chooses not to ever address the identity of. The next lines speak about troubles with law enforcement, whether unprovoked or not. The tone of the speaker is very hard to understand; a part of me possibly thinks it’s an important message from somebody who cares if Ecco is possibly arrested by the police, and wish to see him one last time before this fate, but another part of me is confused on whether this call is a trap; is this person is leading a possibly wanted person to a certain area to “hide” where they could possibly be ambushed or detained in a more concealed area? The “ugly” referred in the last line reminds me of the racism problem in Sweden, certainly an ugly topic which Ecco2K isn’t new to visiting in their musical ventures. Of course, Ecco2K being a mixed person growing up in Sweden is one of his biggest struggles, but it’s one that he seems to be very open with. The fear of being targeted due to racial identity is a very prominent problem which many POC face, and if including this call from a possible incident or altercation is Ecco’s way to deal with the hurt from the results, then I can respect it being included in the song even more, even if it is barely audible compared to the loud, surrounding musical space in the background of the song. The “Watch yourself!” cry might confirm some of the analysis I have done, being a message from either Echo or Ecco to maybe not trust this person this time, seeing as the rest of the song also deals with trust issues, but with yourself instead of others. “No***’s Song” is possibly my favorite song on this EP due to the rest of the lyrics and sound, which have been hard to possibly decode. Ecco2K sends a message to those who might be looking into his lyrical content a little too hard (or perhaps, not enough) with “Don't think about it, 'cause it's not what you think”, only to follow up this line with perhaps some of the most personal and interesting lines that he’s ever put into a song. “I’ve got a hole in my body, leaking out, like a sieve” is one of these lines that Ecco seems to be referring to, since this cryptic bar could mean a lot of things. Is Ecco talking about harming himself until he leaks blood? A metaphorical hole which simply drains his energy and motivation to live? A reference to a certain genital which…under the right circumstances…could leak out like this aforementioned sieve? Whatever he is talking about though seems to be a significant part of his life and mood since a sieve obviously has many small holes which allow any non-solid to pass through. Perhaps this is one of the many lines on “PXE” and “No***’s Song” that alludes to gender and body dysphoria, the discomfort with one’s identity, looks, and genitals in the sense of gender and being perceived; the very latter relates to the next set of lines “In the wall, doing nothing, next to the other bricks // I guess I don't know *** but everything is so concrete” which challenges society’s beliefs on how expressing yourself in any way that is not seen as a norm is absolutely horrid, and something that’ll cause you to be looked down on by the majority. These lines, in connection with Ecco2K’s unique personal expression, only hit harder when you look at the artist’s evolution and earlier songs like 2017’s “Black Boy”, which covers very similar topics in Ecco’s life, mostly about how his expression didn’t match a typical black male’s, not due to his discomfort yet, but simply due to his ethnic background and where he grew up. Correct me if I’m wrong, but these lines furthermore resemble some very iconic excerpts from Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” and “Part Two” which both cover how people (in Pink Floyd's case, children in a school setting, and in Ecco’s case, perhaps his status as a black nonconformist) are mistreated by a higher force (police, teachers) in their lives without getting a say in anything. Ecco seems to take this fate very seriously, exclaiming in this whistley pitch about how he’s doing nothing next to the other people who similarly express themselves. Continuing with this discomfort are the next two lines, “Walking with nothing from my waist to my hip / I get a strong out-of-body feeling”, which seem to be based around Ecco’s identity. Gender seems to play a big part in these next couple lines. While Ecco currently identifies as male, he seems to feel a disconnection from what he possesses below the waist and this must damage his mental health when he’s alone and presumably nude, the strong out of body feeling seeming to mess up his perspective on life even more, since identifying outside of your birth gender is unfortunately seen as wrong in many places. The mental and societal struggles that come with feeling about yourself in this way are really serious, and “No***’s Song” really serves as almost a vent-vessel for Ecco2K to dump his body dysphoria into. The themes of LGBT-related gymnastics continue with “Whenever you're around I shut my big mouth / I got stonewalled so hard, I should have built a house”, calling back to the desire to fit in with not only the public, but yourself (Ecco and Echo) from “Jalouse” and “In The Flesh” as well. Once again, Ecco has to shut up around this group or person in fear of getting judged, but with these lyrics maybe he’s also hinting at people not accepting his expression or changes in his life, leading to the next controversial line which references the anti-discrimination Stonewall Riots, (from Wikipedia) “a series of spontaneous demonstrations by members of the gay community in response to a police raid”. Ecco mentioning these events makes sense considering the intro message along with the jabs at one’s own gender, but I only wish that Ecco would have elaborated more on this line. The “building a house” could be the message that he wants to perhaps keep his struggle less public and not detail it anymore, which in that case I can once again respect. It’s always interesting to witness this in music however, and the video in this song also adds a lot. The phone call could very well be from Noomi, a friend/lover, a scam, or a different person, but I also could agree with the idea of this message being from Ecco himself as well, since it’s very personal too. Another very interesting part about this song is the repetitive cries of “Ok, I get it, I get it. I got it!” which, as the words suggest, it seems that Ecco has finally….got something? I’m not sure exactly what this could be referring to, possibly the idea of coming to a conclusion about one of the ideas discussed in this song, but even then that’s still something that leaves me stumped, since as it stands, I have no idea what “No***’s Song” is about, or what any of its lyrics could possibly mean, because as proved on this entire EP, nobody really even knows Ecco2K, and the artist doesn’t seem to know the vessel themselves. There is some direct dialogue between Ecco and Echo in this song, as Ecco seems to vent his frustrations directly to Echo, telling them that “Whenever you’re around, I shut my big mouth / I got stonewalled so hard I should have built a house” to which Echo replies the cryptic “Ok, I get it, I get it, I got it!” line, leading me to believe that Echo and Ecco suffer similarly, and that’s why Echo’s telling his other side to (for lack of a better expression) shut his ***ing mouth, because he gets what he’s going through and possibly might feel the same. This might be proved by the video, as Echo speaks the lines “I’ve got to give it up whenever you come around”, and interestingly enough, he repeats the stonewall lines again, which might suggest a similarity between the two, as they both either identify with what Stonewall was about, or perhaps they both just liken their own situation, whatever it might be, to Stonewall. Echo gets cut off abruptly from the video, and leaves me with more questions. It’s loud and confusing as a song but, “No***’s Song” is just as ambitious as the lyrics. The soundscape, consisting of pitched up bass lines and ambient noises, doesn’t even sound like a typical song. While Ecco is no secret to experimentation obviously, this doesn’t even sound like the same artist who made songs like “guardianAngels” and “Hold Me Down Like Gravity”. It’s a confusing yet extremely welcome song that unfortunately ends much too soon, although how it still solidifies itself as perhaps my favorite song on “PXE”, due to just the extreme risks it takes and how it all pans out very well in a short amount of time. This song ends with the PXE logo, similarly to the title track.

“Big Air”, the closer note of “PXE”, is one of the most climactic moments in Ecco2K’s whole musical career. While not having any legible and typed-out lyrics to necessarily describe and possibly breakdown, there are some pretty reasonable discussions of what the off pitched screams and wails could possibly mean. Using the animated video as reference again, the theme of utter despair and the feeling of being so lost that you can’t even understand yourself pops up like an unwelcome weed. “Big Air” is my personal dysphoria coping song; it has a really accurate tone to what the feeling of being in the wrong body really feels like. The off pitched beeps and tone sounds all sound very interestingly robotic, almost like the song was made by a completely different group entirely. To those who listened to 2018’s “Beauty Sleep” or the big compilation “[compECCO]”, this kind of music coming from Ecco2K might not seem too out of the ordinary but regardless I think this is one of Ecco’s most creative outlets. It’s no secret that Ecco2K and their music have been one of the most sturdy supports for me during my time of transition from female-to-male; Ecco’s looks, while he might not be the happiest with them according to this EP, really set an ideal transition goal for me (and an amazing sight to adore). Likewise, their music gives me a similar validation feeling that may not solve all my problems, but it makes me feel like I’m not alone. “Mirage”, “Security!” and “Calcium” are some examples of just how important Ecco’s music has been to me, all of them are absolutely amazing and lyrically strong. “Big Air” is one of the many songs on this EP which has this same effect on me, with its creative landscape and powerful performance; despite lacking lyrics it doesn’t hesitate to connect to me. But back to the possible meaning of the song; I’m still a little stuck. It’s cryptic as hell, and I absolutely love it. It is also extremely important to note the fact that Echo is completely gone in the music video. For this entire segment of the video during the “Big Air” song, we see nothing of Ecco’s flamboyant, free side, instead being faced with the (perhaps now main) side of 2K that I’ve been calling “Ecco” for the past thousands of words; also worth noting now only two slides appear during this song, those being the scene of Ecco playing guitar and the top-down view of Ecco, both taking place on the electrical tower. This absence is an extreme turning point in the meaning of “PXE”, as it turns into a possible story of abandonment. It leaves me with a lot of questions that I feel couldn’t be answered in three minutes or three hours of “Pixie Music”. One that prevails above all, however, is “Is Echo finally sick of being hidden away and not brought out often enough that he somehow left Ecco2K’s body? (Does Ecco2K want Echo back?) Is this the ultimate rejection of “PXE”, and instead “PXE” wasn’t about accepting Echo but rather Ecco looking back at the messages that the free spirit had seemed to give him as he struggles more now without him?” Or, perhaps there is another conclusion I can take from this detail, and it’s that Ecco and Echo really did turn out to be one in the same, and what we see is just Ecco learning that…inside of the vessel inside himself, the other vessel that also made up his entire identity fused halfway with that first inside vessel? You might be asking yourself, “What sort of Eccoception is this? Was “PXE” just a dream, and was I just being gaslit through this entire metamorphosis? I want a refund!” Or, more simply, Ecco2K just forgot to add the scenes which featured Echo in the video, which invalidates my whole point, of course. Whichever meaning “Big Air” takes, it still deeply intrigues me. I do find it interesting that the main frame for the video is the one of Ecco standing on the tower in seeming thought. God only knows the dialogue that’s going on inside of the pixely brain of a Drainer’s favorite animated identity. I have to give it to Ecco2K once again as a person, for giving the world a project that carries such a short runtime and so much to unpack even a whole year later. Despite Ecco not giving a listener a clue on what he is trying to say or convey, I have heard people distinguish the “I’m a….” line from the song, so perhaps “Big Air” is Ecco’s explanation on what he possibly identifies with the most, whether it be a physical identity or any of the concepts and contexts discussed in the whole “PXE” EP. “I’m a man / I’m a woman” is one Reddit user’s theory on what “Big Air” is repeating, which would allude to a possible gender struggle. I personally heard words that resemble “I’m a vessel” or “I’m a human”, which had me thinking that Ecco was expressing his uncomfortableness in his own skin, playing on the theme of body dysphoria while he tries to reassure himself that he’s still human no matter how uncomfortable he feels. Right when I was thinking about the lyrics more, the visuals cut, and halfway through the song, a large amount of question marks fill the dialogue screen, further pulling the rug from under the feet of those who wanted to assess Ecco’s inner thoughts and more. The lyrics don’t seem to appear to be from Ecco or Echo, rather Ecco2K himself, as the absence of a name tag usually means Ecco2K is speaking. But not even Ecco2K himself can understand what he’s trying to say in this song, apparently. And that’s what makes it all the more fun to decode, Ecco’s words at the beginning of “No***’s Song” can’t really apply here (Don’t think about it because it’s not what it seems), since regardless, the lyrics of “Big Air” aren’t what we think in the slightest. Maybe one day they’ll come to life and be revealed to us in a certain fashion, but knowing Ecco2K’s usual online antics that isn't completely out of the question. But “Big Air”, above all, might just be a callback to the old Ecco that would understandably make his older fans very happy, since it sounds a lot like a hidden track from his 2015 EP debut “Crush Resist”, a project which I still listen to due to its large soundscape and dreamy, violent sound. The drums on “Big Air” are loud, noisy, and mismatched, while the synths are violent and punchy, making for such a perfect climatic moment for “PXE”, and undeniably makes it one of the most beautiful moments of the experience. I can’t name many of the other instruments or presets that I hear in the song, but I think that’s what makes it so exciting; the pounding bass in the back sounds outstanding as well. As more and more elements come into the song, it only attracts my attention even more. The slight break from aggressiveness in the song really accents it very well too. Although it might be a simple ambient-noise burst, I can’t name many other songs which even resemble in the slightest, especially with the song structure being so violent. The EP comes to an end with a last shot of the PXE logo and a black jolt that is similar to a TV being unplugged. Just as soon as it started, “PXE music” has ended, and while it might just be just a mid project of Ecco2K to some, “PXE” as an experience has safely changed my view of a lot of things. From venting to trusted people, to how people perceive others, to my own body, to Ecco2K himself, of course, “PXE” has absolutely been a changing experience for me and I hope many others as well. Although it ends a bit abruptly and is far, far, too short, “PXE” is still probably the best EP that I’ve ever heard, with some of the coolest visuals I’ve ever seen as well.


user ratings (27)
3.4
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
Trebor.
Emeritus
May 25th 2022


59827 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I've only heard this once but it was not at all what I'm looking for from Ecco



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