New forms emerge from the Mirror Zone; a Nexus Point switching awareness from this reality to the next. Production Unit Xero (PUX) is Oregon-based musician, illustrator, promoter, and label head Ramon Mills. Harnessing chaos energy, PUX conjures frenetic and fragmented breakcore and glistening IDM, complex structures shot through with emotional resonance. The touchpoints are disparate but unified – as PUX, Mills might fearlessly push 200-bpm breaks on one release and then without flinching drift with outer-cosmos introspection on the next, somewhere amongst Bola, AFX, and DJ Scud.
His latest release, Nexus Points, sees Mills at his most atmospheric and evocative, the album a refined collection of dense, dark, and occasionally transcendent compositions. Making music since the early 2000s, Mills has released ten albums through his own Heterodox Records and a clutch of other imprints like Component, Coma, and Ende Records. His most recent is as tonally immersive and meditative as precision-detailed antimatter, elucidating his fascination with the existential, the occult, and science fiction.
The album marks a Nexus Point of its own, the inception of Mirror Zone’s new sublabel Optic Portal which will be a parallel platform interweaving threads of experimental music, audiovisual projects, and live performance environments - collaborating with visual artists Desilence and Leonardo Scarin, provoking similar questions around reality and experience which are so central to Mills’ debut release on the label.
The album is named Nexus Points. Could you explain a bit about what nexus points are and their place in your music? How does the album explore them?
To me, in the context of this album, nexus points are points in time and space where lines or streams of energy intersect. At these intersections, the veil between mundane reality and something more ephemeral, like the dreaming and astral plane becomes thin. These are the spaces where synchronicities increase in frequency and the connections between our thoughts and reality become visible. All of the songs on the album explore the spaces created by nexus points, the flows of energy that form nexus points, and the ways that the energy flows.
"I use my music as a meditative tool"
How does this relate to the role music plays for you? How do you engage with music and how do you use it?
I use my music as a meditative tool. I will design droney soundscapes with different moods to help draw me into a desired state of consciousness.
I use sounds from my life, like field recordings, and bits of sound from videos of meaningful moments to create pieces and phrases of sound that will trigger memories and feelings, kind of like a sigil [mystical symbol] made from sound. I use these in my music and meditation to help the process of meta-programming and self-exploration.
Nexus has some significant science-fiction allusions. Is sci-fi a source of inspiration that impacts your creativity?
Sci-fi has been a huge part of my life since I can remember. The concept of a nexus being a doorway to other realities and realms has been on my mind for a long time. Most of my sci-fi work in role-playing game writing and comics centers around moving between realities and timelines and building stories that illustrate connections between them. Hymn to Oriandre, Mechanus, Void’s Crossing, The Calm, Flash Step, and Forces are all direct references to things going on in my long-running role-playing games and I have used these songs to soundtrack the games.
Currently, my main sci-fi/comic book influence is Grant Morrison with works like Multiversity, the Invisibles and Kid Forever. The main themes in all of them is how the actions in one reality can ripple out and affect others. I also draw a lot of imagery and influence from the game Mage: The Ascension. I have a tattoo from one of the books.
You’ve described being inspired by occultism and chaos magic – which thinkers and artists have been particularly influential to your work? How does your music interact with their ideas?
I’m influenced by many metaphysical and spiritual philosophers. I mainly focus on symbolism, sigil magic, and meditative trance states when integrating these concepts into my music. I like writer and philosopher Robert Anton Wilson. His take on the use of archetypes, and the interactions between the conscious and unconscious mind are fascinating. His thoughts on the eight-circuit model of consciousness, neuro-linguistic programming, and re-imprinting helped shape my views on how magic works in the real world and how to use it to explore and change the self.
The writings on chaos magic by Peter J Carroll, Phil Hine, and Austin Osman Spare have shaped the way that I think about working with energy. I use audio to create sigils by recording sounds from my daily life, and use them as sound design elements. I often make soundscapes and use them to enter meditative states, then use these sounds and patches to create sounds.
What does your songwriting practice look like? How do you approach it and what do you look for in writing music?
I often start the songwriting process by experimenting. For Nexus Points, I spent a lot of time crafting sounds to create the mood. I wanted deep and expressive atmospheres that evoked the type of amorphous energy flows of the Nexus Point concept. I used the atmospheres as the bed of the tracks and then built stories around them with melodies, percussion elements, and other instruments.
I approach song construction by building a base layer and then perform the other layers live one by one, recording audio directly from each machine separately. For synth parts, I will record MIDI notes into my DAW first, then play that MIDI back and record the audio. This allows me to focus on the compositional elements of each individual part with the MIDI recording, and then focus on timbral motion and changes in the audio recording process. For example, in Element and Flash Step, I recorded the MIDI parts for the pads and melodies, then recorded the bass and percussion parts in real-time, responding to the flow of the song to create the feeling of jamming along with the parts. And after those layers are down, I recorded the audio of the synth parts, using knob tweaking and other expressive timbral tweaking to add definition and motion to the transitions and build-ups.
You set up your label Heterodox fifteen years ago, which you’ve articulated as “a publisher and advocate of electronic music possessing unique colours and themes”. What is the key ethos at the heart of the label?
I started Heterodox Records for the independent electronic musician to have an outlet to release music. This was a bit before the proliferation of online streaming and legal download sites, and releasing experimental music to the masses was not the easiest thing to do. From the very beginning, I wanted to focus more on building community with like-minded artists who were doing their own thing and not molding their work to fit into trends or tight genre definitions. In this, we release a lot of different types of music, from experimental techno and droney ambient, to post-rock and noise, sometimes all on the same album.
The main thing that I have learned is that it’s important to make sure that you enjoy the work and that you’re making it for yourself. There is a danger to letting trends in the popular eye dictate your enjoyment and motivation around making music. I encourage the artists that I work with to be fully themselves and release the music that they are happy with.
Can you tell us a bit about the Portland Oregon experimental-electronic music scene? You obviously have a lot of respect and reverence for it, what makes it so special?
I’ve been a part of many experimental music scenes in the U.S. from the east coast to the west. Since this type of music is not as popular as others here in the US, I have found a lot of competition and pretence in the scene. Portland was a breath of fresh air.
Monthly events like Volt Divers, Live in the Depths and Sanctuary Sundays have been hubs of community and collaboration, instead of the posturing and scenester hierarchy that I’ve found elsewhere. There was an event series called Cult of the Volt where the promoter, Jeph Noir, would pick three or four people to get together and practice jamming a few times and then perform 25 to 45 minute sets. This brought a lot of artists together and really helped foster the collaborative and supportive scene that we have here.
Nexus Points was released on Optic Portal earlier this year, a new platform fracturing off from Spekki Webu’s Mirror Zone which will focus on more abstract/esoteric sounds and multidimensional projects – what is important for you in working with a label? What appeals to you about working with Optic Portal?
I really enjoy working with Spekki! Before he approached me, he had a good idea of my sound and musical output. That attention to detail really made me feel comfortable as an artist. He was also very hands on in the album curation process, giving good feedback on demos and helping hone the sound and feeling of the album. I sent him a ton of tracks and we narrowed it down to twelve on the album. I am really looking forward to working with him and Optic Portal in the future!
One may wonder now: after the stimulating inaugural release by Production Unit Zero, what will the next dimension into the Optic Portal feel like? One thing’s for sure, this backdoor of Mirror Zone shows us newfound worlds of highly intelligent electronic music, presented by versed artists from around the globe. For now, we start the journey through PUX's never-ending chain reaction of Nexus Points. The full release can be found on the Mirror Zone / Optic Portal Bandcamp.