David Psutka, the Toronto producer who performs experimental music as Egyptrixx, rejects limiting his work to a time or location. “I’ve never been a part of a geographical centrality, or community,” he admitted as we soaked in the lushness sprouting from Toronto's balmy Allan Gardens Conservatory, a welcome escape from the winter slush outside.
Pure, Beyond Reproach is his fourth album as Egyptrixx, one of several current projects. It’s an engaging listen, one that offers a stark and uncompromising reconfiguration of club music and non-musical elements. There are no immediate entry points, no four-on-the-floors to cling to. Like a cybertronic sibling of Actress’s Ghettoville, this album tells the story of a kind of place in a world that's not unlike our own: processed, despairing, ready to swallow us whole. It’s the latest release on Halocline Trance, the experimental label Psutka started in 2014 after moving on from Night Slugs. His unorthodox musical vision has guided the label to striking new terrain: Psutka’s collaborations as folk-drone group Anamai, and Limit with L-Vis 1990, are built around spontaneity, for example.
“You often go in with these mathematics, project A plus project B equals project C — but that’s usually not the case,” he said. As we admired orchids, turtles, and tropical plants, Psutka discussed finding his voice, breaking routine, and making music that’s brave and true.
When speaking about previous albums, you said you were still learning what the Egyptrixx project is supposed to be. Are you more confident now?
I understand the objectives and the processes now; the overall language and parameters, the mechanism of the project. The project is based around two feelings in club music: on the one hand, serenity, calm, color, lushness, and texture; on the other, impact. Concussion, drums, pressure. The dichotomy interests me. That’s the focus. I don’t need to force what I do into spaces where it doesn’t belong. I did that early on, and for the most part, it was not a good experience for me as a person or creatively.
Did those experiences lead you to start Halocline Trance?
Indirectly. I also just wanted to run my own label, be in control, and release my own stuff. But I always knew that I had very specific objectives for Halocline Trance, and other projects with equally strange and specific objectives. I release music through my label in a way that doesn’t fit conventional album cycles. A lot of the shows are one-offs, installations, or collaborations: things you can’t really recreate night after night. It’s designed that way consciously, and I totally embrace it.
If there is one unifying idea behind all the projects on Halocline Trance, it’s the idea of ‘physical sound’ — the idea that sound waves can be revolutionary, on an individual level, community level, or mass-population level. We have an interactive understanding of how sound works in a space, how it translates and collides with people. There’s always been conceptual spheres of electronic music, but right now there are lot of interesting hybrids and cross-pollinations. A lot of exciting results come from that disclarity.
Each of your Egyptrixx records has a concept. What’s behind the new album?
The duality at the center of Pure, Beyond Reproach has to do with the North Pacific gyre, a huge mass of garbage in the ocean, and how that relates to pathological loyalty between people. Loyalty at all costs, even if there is an error, or if it’s placating, or encouraging bad behaviors. I wanted to [make connections] that were really microscopic but also really vast.
What I like about that is it sounds important, but you also don’t seem to be describing a “statement record.”
The “statements” that I make as Egyptrixx are big or accidental or multifaceted. I’m still uncomfortable with making really big monochromatic proclamations. I have such uncertainty as an individual about a lot of things, and there are a lot of valuable, important conversations happening right now, especially in musical scenes, about inclusivity, representation, and identity politics. These conversations are amazing, but they’re also nuanced, and difficult to resolve publicly. I’ve noticed that it’s easier for non-artists to be declarative about these sort of issues, and it’s more difficult for artists who actually have to make things and put these notions into practice. But I feel that if you’re being intentionally vague or allegorical, then you’re wimping out.
As I go on, I want to be more concrete and less interpretative but it’s hard for me, and a lot of other artists, because I want to acknowledge nuance and my own lack of knowledge. Music takes a lot of work and it’s hard for me to dedicate myself to things that I don’t think are important or meaningful. I really believe unconventional art has to have a broader application.