by Sean Hewson Rating:8 Release Date:2018-04-06

MIEN’s self-titled debut is a rather exciting collaboration between The Black Angels' Alex Maas, Tom Furse of The Horrors, Elephant Stone’s Rishi Dhir and John-Mark Lapham of The Earlies. Released on Rocket Recordings, this is bound to be a trip.

Rishi Dhir’s sitar starts Earth Moon before Alex Maas’s familiar voice comes in along with a very Baggy drum loop. The feel is of The Beatles’ Tomorrow Never Knows – a danceable beat with layers of psychedelic sounds. Tom Furse’s keyboards add a 70s/80s flavour to the Psychedelic Soup. The next song, Black Habit, was the first track that MIEN worked on. It has a more modern sound with an urgent, Motorik drum loop and warm synth sounds. Maas is singing towards the bottom of his range before jumping up for the chorus. Again there are layers of sounds. A slightly distorted hip-hop drum pattern starts (I’m Tired of) Western Shouting. Maas contributes a high and a low vocal on this as the synths bubble. This time the synth sounds are quite Industrial (or what they used to call Futurepop – VNV Nation, etc.). It’s still ostensibly Psychedelic but the sound palette is very different. You Dreamt is also quite Industrial, but it’s Nine Inch Nails this time with the sound of breathing and the distorted drums. Maas’s performance is more spoken word and again is on two or three tracks. It’s a bit of a stranger track this and not as immediate given the lack of a vocal melody. However, it does have a sinister feel to it that expands the range of the album. Other is all keyboard drones – high, middle and low. Essentially an Ambient piece, it is another welcome change of pace and the first track to leave off the drum loops and the vocals. It segues into Hocus Pocus and the return of Maas on vocals. The ‘I feel so high’ lyric feels like it was the first thing that came to mind and is a bit The Verve. The drum loop is slower here, almost like Trip Hop. But the sound is not laid-back and is held together by Dhir’s strong bass-line. Ropes is more urgent. Again, Maas is singing in two octaves. The beat is Motorik but it is a light, clear drum machine this time. Dhir’s bass is to the fore again. The melody is quite slight. Synth arpeggios and growls start Echolalia. Maas’s vocal is urgent, as is the drum loop. The build of instrumental tracks and vocals here is quite thrilling and it’s all over within three minutes. Odessey is the most similar to the Black Angels, especially with Maas’s vocal delivery and the verse melody. But the chorus is slightly deranged, in a good way. It sounds like a subversion of a Black Angels track. The track finishes with pleasing combinations of sitar and synth, creating a shimmering effect underneath the vocals and drums. In true Neil Young style, Earth Moon returns at the end of the album. This time it is more acoustic-sounding and slower, almost like a less devastating Hurt at the end of The Downward Spiral. Slow, Illbient drums come in towards the end in partnership with layers of keyboards – some building soundscapes, some bubbling away through a Tremolo effect.

Created at various studios around the world and with a good deal of file swapping, MIEN feels more built than written. The sounds, performances and ideas are fantastic but something is lost when they don’t always have a strong melody to sell the songs. However, that is the one negative. Overall it’s a wonderful-sounding meeting of minds.

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