St. Louis Experimental Electronic Musician Justin Enoch Builds Meaning Through Multiplicity

click to enlarge Justin Enoch's music act EKSE recently put out Bineal Ponk in collaboration with fellow St. Louis musician ELAZY. - Hayden Molinarolo
Hayden Molinarolo
Justin Enoch's music act EKSE recently put out Bineal Ponk in collaboration with fellow St. Louis musician ELAZY.

Justin Enoch’s musical act EKSE defies household categorization.

“[It’s] Midwest Bonk, a hardcore variant — or Ponk, Pineal Punk — a Midwest offshoot of Italian harsh bouncy, pineal bounce and UK Donk,” they say.

While these aren’t the most familiar of genres, hearing EKSE (pronounced Eg-Sheh) provides the definitions. The listener falls into a fragmented, bubbly electro world, where communication through language feels irrelevant.

“It’s loose, dusty, clipped and raw,” Enoch says. “ACME shit — like a big cartoon hammer.”

Enoch’s recent EKSE album Bineal Ponk, a collaboration with fellow St. Louis musician ELAZY (Carter Frerichs), is a good introduction to Midwest Bonk. Released in February through the Milan-based label Clam Pressure, Enoch and Frerich created Bineal Ponk in a three-month stretch filled with “destructively editing sound till it’s mush.” The resulting 10 tracks — seemingly influenced by noise and improv jazz — introduce a crashing futuristic mayhem all of their own. Arrangements of technological instrumentals hiss, zing, bounce and burp in a call-and-response. Bineal Ponk emulates a modern dance of malfunctioning machinery that somehow clicks into place.

Categorizing Enoch is just as difficult as categorizing EKSE. They have six different current music monikers: EKSE — Enoch’s main project — DJ DJohnny DJropshipping, LAX BRO, Ujstin Echno, Romanian Bloodbath and Since 1902, which started out at house shows and venues such as the Sci-Fi Lounge and even won LouFest’s 2011 High School Battle of the Bands.

Enoch can also be seen around town as a DJ, and as a community member of Biota, a now-defunct arts collective or a “transient ecosystem” that was run by Enoch and other local young artists. As a DJ, Enoch is inspired by the time-shifting feeling of funk and house music as well as the pacing of their favorite song, “Poet” by Sly and The Family Stone. Their DJ sets collage plasticky, melting textures, gliding from one electronic dream to the next.

The fragmentation of Enoch’s art comes from their multiple identities or heritages. Enoch was born in Nagyvarad, Romania, and lived in Budapest, Hungary, before moving to St. Louis as a child and then lived in Prague for film school in the late 2010s. After college, they began a radio show, Radio Benska, which celebrates the electronic music of their dual upbringings, the Midwest and Eastern Europe. The show can be accessed through Soundcloud and the platform Ma3azef, airing periodically on Wednesdays and featuring guests and themes of what Enoch calls the “balkan web," the sharing of Eastern European music virtually with the Western world. Enoch says running Radio Benska provides “a slow trot around the only Eastern Europe I can economically afford to explore, the digital one.”

Enoch’s separation from their birthplace holds a heavier weight this year, as the war with Russia devastates Ukraine. Enoch and their virtual system of friends, the eastbloc sound community, along with Eastbloc Antifa Sound Alliance, put out a compilation We Stand With Ukraine on March 24. Enoch mastered the album’s 64 tracks from experimental musicians around the world. An EKSE song, titled “Nana” for Enoch’s grandmother, is featured at the end of the compilation.

We Stand With Ukraine raised almost $3,000 in donations toward Fem.Bilkis and Gender Zed, queer feminist networks in Ukraine. In the Bandcamp description, the eastbloc sound community says their fundraiser aided Ukrainian people, and they stand in “solidarity with the people of Palestine, Syria, and Yemen, and all people who are currently victims of imperialist aggression.”

Matching the saturated washing of sounds throughout the compilation, the album artwork features a neon, otherworldly creature spitting snakes and created by Ukrainian painter Maria Prymachenko. During the battle of Ivankiv on February 27, 10 to 25 original Prymachenko works were destroyed at the Ivankiv Historical and Local History Musuem. The 1978 painting, titled “May That Nuclear War Be Cursed!” alongside the spirited compilation tracks, tells a story of this time — unimaginable loss which we can’t recover but which we must survive.

Enoch emphasizes the importance of engaging online with the war up close, pointing to the Instagram war diary of John Object, a Ukrainian electronic producer who enlisted in the army. The war itself is very close to Enoch’s family who still live in Romania, and Enoch doesn’t see this as an abstract struggle.

“The war needs to end,” they say. “I hope that sharing music can render non-musical sensations for the audience. Until recently, music had a much wider variety of uses, besides making money, and during wartime, I hope music can resume its role as an emotional, uniting force.”

Enoch will be moving to Los Angeles this summer to gain proximity to a career in film post-sound. Reflecting on their time as a St. Louis musician and community member, they hope that other young musicians are given space to thrive and grow as they were.

Some of Enoch’s most treasured St. Louis memories come from the year 2019, before their music world turned mostly virtual during the pandemic. In the former home of the Trainwreck Saloon in Laclede’s Landing, Biota hosted events juxtaposing artwork and music of various experimental, unconventional styles.

Because of the venue’s proximity to the Mississippi, the space eventually flooded, forcing the events’ end. What’s left is the memory of catching the view of the river’s grandeur at night outside the venue, as the Arch glowed its legs through the city’s fog. Those unpredictable St. Louis nights resonate with the balanced oddities of Justin Enoch’s sounds and creations, which speaks to the appeal of their music.

“[It was] totally strange stuff that seemed normal in the moment,” Enoch says.

About The Author

Delia Rainey

Delia Rainey is a musician and nonfiction writer from St. Louis, Missouri. She has been involved in the St. Louis music scene with her band Dubb Nubb for over 12 years. Her recent writing has been featured in Post-Trash, new sinews, DIAGRAM, and elsewhere. Find out more on Twitter (@hellodeliaaaaa) and
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