I spend a fair portion of my time wandering the EDM new music pathways, I will be the first to admit that it isn’t really my “go to” music but modern technology and current fashion means that it is probably one of the fastest growing musical genres and a jobbing review must go where the work is. Now having admitted that most of my time spent in those sonic realms relate more to work than pleasure, every now and then you stumble across a real gem and Drama by the wonderfully titled mentalEscape is just such an album.
Whereas so much music in the realms of Electronic Dance Music feels the product of would be DJ’s focused more on the beat than the melody, Drama is the sound of someone taking those same studio technologies and using them like any other instrument, exploring their possibilities and taking things to their extreme. In the same way that all music played on a guitar doesn’t sound the same, all music created using synths and samples doesn’t have too either, something that mentalEscape knows all too well.
What I’m saying is that where most of the competition is merely playing with beats and blips, mentalEscape is playing with moods and painting scenarios, where they are rooted firmly in an enclosed EDM world, mentalEscape instead explores wider world and merely uses EDM to translate what it finds into a common language. If there is such a thing as progressive EDM then it surely sounds a lot like this.
The gloriously named Elephant Stomper plays with industrial grit and skittering back beats, a dystopian, glitchy and warped centre-piece to this mercurial album. This is dance music built from the detritus found scattered across an industrial wasteland, all sharp edges and jagged design and driven by a relentless powerhouse of bruising beats and searing sparks. It is the white-hot groove of factory noise being rendered onto the night club floor, but not the night club that just anyone can find. This one is probably in a decaying warehouse or dead car plant miles away from civilisation and possibly even in some sort of parallel universe, and as the clock strikes thirteen this is the sound which hits the sky for probably the last party before the apocalypse.
Mrak is the sound of computers having bad dreams, all robotic grooves and sweeping synthwave melodies, the REM dream-state of the circuit board and Rebuild is fashioned from high drama and futuristic Wagnerian electronic backdrops. But it isn’t all dark and intense, Not This Life (Van Sebe) is a techno-reggae workout and Betty Elms is a minimalist electro-pop soundtrack and album opener, Storytelling is doom-pop at its finest a mix of vibrancy and visceral virtuosity.
Drama is a perfectly named album being built on a beat of fractious urgency, tension and paranoia, where the clinical cold synths of the dance floor are mixed with white hot rock muscle to create a blend of the futuristic and the primordial, the industrial and the elemental, the pre-determined and the organic. It also has a brooding presence, far from the euphoric and joyous nature of the uptown club music, it feels as if it has been fashioned from the scattered musical trappings and attitudes that the punks, the goths and the garage rockers left behind after their bubbles burst and they either went underground or learnt to conform. Only this time it seems as if there is something only half human conducting the orchestra.
I like music that I can’t just hang a sound bite or label on, can’t kick into a well defined generic drawer, music that I didn’t see coming. Well, I didn’t see this coming. I feel like I have been run over by demon-possessed truck, experimented on by extra-terrestrials, have stood on the edge of the end of the universe itself, been attacked by cyborgs and had a music shop collapse on me. What a way to spend a morning. And the weird part is…I can’t wait to do it all again.