Agents of electronic music specialize in espionage. They don pseudonyms, lead double lives, shroud themselves in the dense foliage of their beats, and infiltrate the deepest pockets of the internet by force or subterfuge. The rank and file only deal with the menial jobs—reception desks and security posts and anywhere else where the public needs a friendly face or just a hint of menace.
But when the task calls for actual skill and muscle, you ring in the special ops. Cue Terence Chiyezhan and Garrett Burke, aka groove master Murk Daddy Flex and demolition expert Isaak Pancake. Both agents have served the Athens area under multiple guises–the former with the noisy college rock platoon Saline, the latter with the abstract hardcore division Tug–but never on the same campaign. “I think we crossed paths in the Athens music scene a bunch and our bands had played shows together a few times before I even moved to Athens,” Burke reveals over email.
The two specialists only started to plot their own operation after long hours down in the trenches of the Grit’s kitchen. At first, Burke conceived project Lucky Numbers in 2016 as an engagement for Tug, who would recruit Chiyezhan as their fourth member. “The new direction was supposed to be more electronic,” Burke explains, “and we had begun writing and recording samples, but eventually the project was scrapped and the band dissolved.” So, without the platoon’s support, Chiyezhan suggested that he and Burke tackle the campaign on their own.
Turns out, Lucky Numbers needed no backup. With their divergent skill sets combined, Chiyezhan and Burke execute a dizzying array of missions. In “Rock Heaven,” the Murk shows off his unassailable swagger, cruising on his signature sample-laden beats as wires short-circuit above. Meanwhile, Burke lays down the Perc-esque Pancake jackhammer on “Oceans Eleven (2201),” wrecking any ghostly semblance of melody with his spiral stairs barrage. Episodes like “Maybe I Was Sitting” challenge both artists, as Burke pits his rail gun snare against the desolate echoes of time-tolling bells. Even the shorter trials, like the submerged minute of “Tiny Wizard” or the collapsed 30-second groove in “Cut Crease,” demonstrate pluck and finesse not seen in either agent’s portfolio before now. “Terence is an absolute wizard when it comes to creating melody out of practically nothing,” Burke notes. “So I was maybe responsible for the more soundscape-y elements, and he was responsible for actually turning them into songs.”
Such complex sabotage sounds like the payload that only months of recon and research could prepare. But Burke says that certain deadlines expedited the process. “It was a sort of relaxed process until mid June of 2017, when I realized I was going to be moving away from Athens at the end of the summer,” he recounts. “We had several tracks organized and most of the source samples were made on my computer, so I would bring those tracks and my synthesizer over to Terence’s house, where we arranged and mixed everything on his computer.” With Burke’s noise and Chiyezhan’s melodic intel, the two agents buckled in and knocked out most of Lucky Numbers in two weeks.
That interplay leads to both agents’ most astonishing works yet. Lucky Numbers‘ standout mission, “Fiefdom Jazz,” is simply insane, a total drum and bass UFO ride that revs higher and higher into the stratosphere before blasting off at warp speed 80 seconds in. How the duo even managed to squeeze a devious Flava D sample in between the volleys of vocals and ping-pong blips boggles the mind. “I think we liked the idea of making something harsh and fucked up but still kind of saccharine,” says Burke.
Beyond any doubt, the Murk and the Pancake succeed in that precarious objective. Alas, Lucky Numbers may be the last project that both agents can team up on for some time; with Chiyezhan now in Atlanta and Burke in Philadelphia, and both involved in other active band units, the next campaign would demand some serious coordination. But, given the extraordinary landscapes they’ve mapped and dismantled here, the distanced duo might yet combine again. “There would be some significant planning involved,” Burke admits. “I could see it happening, though.”