"Ana Caprix barely even exists IRL, just a ghost :p" This is from an online chat with the London producer, obscured by said made-up name and internet avatar, which in this case involves a certain androgynous first name, with a second that sounds part-horoscope, part-anime character, and part-Proustian praise of frivolity. Ana Caprix, or Ana – Tom Ensom, actually – produces the kind of dreamy dance that MDMA would only hinder rather than enhance, with its undercurrent of lucid insight and a slightly ‘off’ aesthetic.
"I’m not convinced that ‘whole person’ concept is very meaningful," Ensom tells me through the LED looking glass of my laptop. We’re in the same city, but talking through fibre optics in a conversation that is all text across a live Google doc filled out in real time. That's ‘real time’, in as far as I’m not convinced that Ensom isn’t typing his answers in another window and pasting them in while I wait. But that’s conjecture and, according to him, doesn’t make a difference.
"I don’t think a conversation is necessarily any more ‘real’ than anything that happens on the internet," he tells me when I argue for the spontaneity of real-space interaction, where you can catch a ‘truer’ glimpse of a person through their paralanguage – voice, rhythm, intonation, movement – if I could only meet him face to face. Instead, I’m left to speculate on the sentences that appear fully formed, with no residue of letters typed in sequence, and only the occasional backspace to go on in extrapolating on what I think Ana Caprix is really saying. "I guess I’m saying that I don’t think that spontaneity is necessarily truth? It might be interesting, but it’s no more truthful and not necessarily a greater insight," he counters, while adding the potential delay in replying throughout our hour-plus conversation could be due to him keeping "an occasional eye on a second email account." Multi-tasking as a way of being, data feeds as a matter of course – life under Internet.
"Trance music is just so produced… there’s a very strict formula to it," Ensom types about the genre of German-born '90s electronica that had a huge influence on him growing up. You can hear it bleeding out in his ‘For Seven Nights This Island Is Ours’ EP, whether it's through the queasy build-up into bliss of O.K.O.M.O. or the joyful weave through the dewy field recordings, the calm after the storm, in Smile. "Production values tend to be really high so there’s nothing spontaneous whatsoever about it. But at the same time, it’s all constructed to trigger an extreme emotional response," Ensom says in drawing parallels with his own approach and, by extension, his extra-musical persona. "But actually, I don’t want to link that in to my music too explicitly, because I do really ‘feel’ my music when I’m making it."
You can certainly ‘feel’ the music when listening to it, too. Of a similar set of post-gender girly-boys producing pop skewed towards its weird and corroded core (including SOPHIE, A. G. Cook and Felicita), Ensom’s is an HD world of optimised sensations that are so clear that they become blurry. An opening sample of what sounds like a switch in Terminal catapults the listener across the dappled current of the cosmos, becoming a tingling feeling as it hurtles straight into the zoom function of the PhotoShop ideal – the feathered edges, blur tools, and lightened layers becoming both clear and fragmented in this uncanny valley of shivering asynchronicity at its source. Ana Caprix is the sound of the bedazzled, empty pixel; in being ever pursuant of the ideal, it only becomes more bizarre.
That "kind of slightly unsettling quality of perfection" is what fascinates Ensom; in particular the "creepily perfect human faces" of South Korean plastic surgery jobs, which "for some reason seems to be wayy [sic] ahead of Western plastic surgery". This is the "idea of the sublime" that EP standout @The Villa (Blackout) most acutely represents. Emergent and muffled by the wall of a Balearic club, a stream of radio transmissions burst forward in the echo of "I’m so blessed. I really am," while manically pitch-shifting, cut-up acapellas of "Miss American dream" Britney Spears’ nervous breakdown splinter the ambient tide of ecstasy: "I’m not doing what I really think."
It’s here that Ana Caprix embraces the "endlessly layered" realms of pop as spectacle; its duality in revealing the hidden current of culture-at-large behind its fine front of frivolity. It’s an embrace of the balance between the basic and the beautiful without irony, while coyly pointing to something much deeper. "Sometimes I’ll take a step back and be like ‘oh my god, I’ve gone too far’."
Ana Caprix released the 'For Seven Nights This Island Is Ours' EP on February 25th 2014.