Minneapolis’ new pop mystery

BNLX cranks out pop gems from the shadows.

BNLX in the flesh.

BNLX

BNLX in the flesh.

Andrew Penkalski

BNLX have been a band intentionally wrapped in mystery, or at least some weird anonymity, since the release of their first EP earlier in March. That first collection of songs, aptly titled âÄúEP #1,âÄù only offered an initialed creative roll call of E.A. and A.A. âÄî two monograms that have been correlated to married duo and local figureheads of the Susstones label Ed and Ashley Ackerson.

The two have kept up a comparable pattern of authoritative sterility. Their promo content is riddled with tongue-in-cheek charts and business jargon. Yet press release lines such as âÄúElements of BNLX are unexplained and may remain so,âÄù present this project as some classified industrial monster. It is sort of a guise that suits them. With their fourth EP of the year rolling out this week, BNLX is clearly producing these walls of pop music at a mechanical pace.

Benefiting from the production capacity offered by the Susstones-operated Flowers Studio, their series of extended plays has doused the Minneapolis music scene with expansive walls of stylistically wandering tracks. Be it the repetitive power pop hooks of âÄúDo WithoutâÄù or the shimmering baroque progressions of âÄúBlue and Gold,âÄù the lack of creative guidelines has been a large portion of Ed AckersonâÄôs enthusiasm.

âÄúReally the only parameter is to have no parameters,âÄù he said.

Their ability to mingle across styles may rise a bit from their decision to approach each release with a sense of immediacy, keeping any eager ears perpetually on their toes.

 âÄúWe decided that it would be an interesting thing to kind of develop the relationship between the band and listeners over time consistently,âÄù Ackerson said. âÄúItâÄôs more of a building thing and a dialogue thing.âÄù

While that sense of dialogue could be a bit marred by their continual attempt at ambiguity, the whistling maniac pulses of the call-and-response âÄúLMAO/CMEOâÄú silence any accusations that BNLX may be taking themselves too seriously.

âÄúRather than being all political about it and issuing some weird manifesto social commentary thing, I think itâÄôs a lot more fun to just kind of bury that stuff in the context of weird pop songs,âÄù Ackerson said. âÄúSee if people catch on or not.âÄù

So if Ackerson were to take any stance of scope in regards to his current creative outlet, it would likely be little more than exploring the vast capacities of sound and production, which is why this half-serious approach to exposure may suit the duo so well. Why tag BNLX with any semblance of identity or image when their varied catalogue stands in such opposition of one?

âÄúThere is a kind of overall world view that is being expressed,âÄù Ackerson said. âÄúI donâÄôt even know where itâÄôs coming from even though itâÄôs coming from us.âÄù

This off-the-deep-end approach to their frequent releases has only been furthered with âÄúEP #4,âÄù a collection of covers spanning from RihannaâÄôs âÄúShut Up and DriveâÄù to a frenetically amplified cover of a krautrock staple, CanâÄôs âÄúSoul Desert.âÄù

âÄúThat was a really fun exercise,âÄù Ackerson said. âÄúJust take four songs that we happen to like and see if we can âÄòBNLX-izeâÄô them.âÄù

While that self-constructed verb may be as equally hard to define as BNLXâÄôs style, such a descriptor still seems to promise that sort of aural punch of production and fervor that weaves through their work.

TheyâÄôve covered a lot of ground over the course of this year. Hopefully their diverse ear for productive grandeur wonâÄôt be tapped out for 2011.