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On the Beat: San Antonio electronic musician ARK refuses to sit still 

click to enlarge For the past eight years, ARK has trekked coast to coast playing diverse and uniquely curated events showcasing his blend of analog and digital beat-making. - LUPE MARTINEZ
  • Lupe Martinez
  • For the past eight years, ARK has trekked coast to coast playing diverse and uniquely curated events showcasing his blend of analog and digital beat-making.
“Only thing I can say right now, as far as when I get back home, is that I’m not going to go to work anymore,” Anthony Mendoza Martins tells me over the phone as he leaves Record Parlor in Los Angeles.

Martins, a 28-year-old electronic musician and producer better known by the moniker ARK, was in LA at the end of May to perform at a pair of events — a mixed-media art show and a more conventional music showcase. As the San Antonio artist has expanded his out-of-town gigging, the City of Angels has become a second home.

“This is my fourth or fifth time out in LA doing music, and like anything anyone works on, it’s gotten better time after time,” he says. “People are still wearing masks and socially distancing where possible, and I will say that the crowds are much tamer right now since we are still in a global pandemic. But musicians can’t really be stopped. We’re going to get out there.

For the past eight years, ARK has trekked coast to coast playing diverse and uniquely curated events showcasing his blend of analog and digital beat-making. He’s also raised his profile through a series of more than three dozen releases, making him one of the Alamo City’s most prolific musical creators.

ARK’s sound isn’t easy to pigeonhole, combining experimental hip-hop with electronics and tinges of jazz. Glitch and heavy sampling abound. The sound combines the more eccentric qualities of artists such as Flying Lotus, Madlib and Knxwledge.

“I can’t really define a point in time where I started with music, but I do remember playing with cassette tapes my parents had around the house,” says ARK, who calls himself a lifelong music lover. “I’ll play any instruments, mostly keyboard and bass, but more than a player, I see myself as a producer first.”

ARK owes his early exposure to a wider musical scene to social media. It started by sharing tracks with the beat music community on Instagram, and it’s since led him to perform places as far away as Portland, Maine, which has become a regular stop.

“I had never even heard of Portland before this, but now it’s a place I call home,” he says. “My friend told me he was pretty underwhelmed by a lot of the beat music he was hearing on Instagram, and then he came across a few of my videos. So, we connected and began making plans to link.”

That Portland friend, known as Fyvr, then invited ARK to Re;Sample, a curated event in Maine for beatmakers who use the Roland SP404SX drum machine.

Aside from the miles traveled, ARK has racked up an impressive 28 releases since 2013. He was also integral in developing Expansions of Q (EQ), a San Antonio-based collective of experimental musicians that also includes 40hands, Brandon Medellin and Episode None. The collective, which served as a label-like umbrella for the artists involved, is now on hiatus.

“It’s not necessarily a label in the sense that we have someone backing us financially but a space where we could create and grow together,” he explains. “I think a rebranding may be in the cards for EQ at some point in the future, but for right now I’m focused on being present in what I do. I’d like to go to Japan and Europe.”

That need to be focused on the present is understandable given the scope of ARK’s work. He’s not only producing, mixing and mastering his music, but creating music videos and maintaining a well-manicured online presence that spans social media, Bandcamp, Soundcloud and his own website.

But like many artists trying to work through the turmoil of the COVID-19 pandemic, he briefly fell prey to burnout.

“Before I got my current job as a [house] painter, I was doing freelance work including video, audio production, mixing /mastering, graphic design, and I tired myself out,” he says. “Then I had this injury at the end of 2020 that really set me back.”

ARK took a subsequent break from social media and issuing new releases. By switching gears, he was able to find a refreshed view of the world and release mode/net, a 15-track tape that showcases well-produced experimental music featuring San Antonio artists K9 and fellow EQ collaborator 40hands. This release provides not only a sampling of adventurous SA music circa 2021 but a jumping-off point from which to explore ARK’s expansive discography.

Looking forward, the musician and producer says his next goal is to ensure that he’s taking steps that put him on the path to becoming a full-time creator.

“I’m looking to get back into just being an independent artist as soon as I get home from LA,” he says. “If someone asks me what I do, I want to say that I am an artist without them having to ask what my real job is. I don’t want to partition my life into sections. I am an artist, and this is the life that I chose.”

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