If you’re a David Lynch fan, the name Axxon N might ring a bell – a web series concept that never materialised, but later became a complex, surreal theme in Lynch’s 2006 film Inland Empire.
It’s also the moniker of 22 year old Edwin Fry, a Cricklewood-based music producer and third year BA Drawing student at Camberwell College of Arts.
As Axxon N, Fry remains something of an obscurity in the electronic music world. He keeps a shadowy online profile and has just one release to date – his two-part debut album Heal, released in October via Domestic Records.
Composed of 19 tracks made between 2010-2012, Heal is an intricate, sample-heavy patchwork of dark and light, treading a line between ambient electronica (Mind Interference, Contemplation) disjointed sound design (Time of Need, Bad Dream) and breakneck rave (Petri Dish, New Dawn).
It’s a powerful concept album, and one that functions both as an expression of the mental health problems experienced by Edwin in his past, and a cathartic process of recovery for the artist.
“Part one is supposed to describe the heat of the moment, whereas part two deals with the recovery from it and the return to mundane, yet less stressful reality.”
“At first it was an EP, then it was a big EP, then it was a single-sided album, then it became two parts. I wanted to express this idea, and I wasn’t done with it, so I just kept adding tracks and it became bigger and bigger,” he said.
Fry’s electronic roots can be traced back to his dad’s collection – Kraftwerk, The Chemical Brothers and Daft Punk, among others. He “briefly and badly” played the recorder and guitar at school, but it wasn’t until he began experimenting with Garageband at age 18 that the blueprint for his own sound started to fall into place.
“I always saw myself doing something musical when I was older, because I really liked music. One afternoon I was bored, and thought yeah, I’ll try it. And made a few shitty songs.”
Those “shitty songs” soon evolved from basic Garageband loops to a deeper fascination with sampling, with Fry collecting and painstakingly assembling everything from film quotes to field recordings as the basis for the tracks that would go on to become Heal.
“Anything that I found or saw that I thought would sound cool in a song, I’d keep in a big library of samples. Even now, every time I see a movie that I like and hear a quote or something that I like, I’ll make a note of it for future reference.
“I got into the idea of using samples because I liked the challenge. I think it’s quite difficult to get things to sound nice together that are from different sources. Now, listening back to the album some of them don’t sound nice together, but I think they have a kind of perverse beauty about them for that reason.
“That’s the thing when you’re doing stuff with samples, you can’t just bang it out. Often you find something you think will sound good and it sounds like shit when you put it in. Sometimes you try and make it fit – there’s a lot of that on the album. Just fuck with it till it sounds good.”
Amongst the distortion and sample-fuckery, some clear touchstones jump out on Heal. Early Four Tet, DJ Shadow and The Avalanches feel like reference points, but it’s with the warped ambience of Autechre and Aphex Twin that the album resonates with most.
Fry namechecks the latter alongside favourites such as Portishead, Crystal Castles, Andy Stott and Sasu Ripatti, but interestingly doesn’t cite them as cognisant influences on his production: “Obviously I like Autechre and Aphex Twin, but it was never a conscious decision to sound like them. I guess you kind of absorb something and it reflects your taste, and your taste is reflected in what you make.”
Despite its recent release, Heal reflects a much younger, more troubled Fry, and he’s quick to point out the evolution of both his music and state of mind. “My new stuff is a bit more optimistic, but I still think there’s melancholy there. I think there always will be because I’m a bit of a pessimistic person. It’s more about how things are OK now – there’s less focus on the dread.
“I’ve made two new album’s worth of material in the past year. The first is quite emotional, but I also like the idea of making something cold, and sterile and nasty. I’m not like that, but I do like the idea of taking the emotion out. That’s making something I like the sound of, as opposed to making something that reflects my life and situation.”
So where does the next stage of Fry’s journey of musical/self exploration take him?
“At the moment I’m just concentrating on my degree. I’d obviously love to make a career from music, but we’ll see what happens.”
Watch Edwin selecting five of his favourite albums for Artefact’s On the Record below.
Heal is available to purchase as a 2xCD here