I’m consistently impressed by the huge variety of the sounds and compositions on electronic albums these days. Especially since you have to concentrate on each track and listen to the whole album to really appreciate it properly, as intended by the artist. After a pretty significant gap of not paying attention to albums at all and even picking out only the most ‘dancefloor’ tracks for DJ use, I now look forward to quality albums more than any other format of release. There’s no cheap hit; you put in some time and you reap the reward.
This is nowhere more true than on Oscar Mulero‘s new album on his own imprint PoleGroup titled Muscle and Mind. The once Madrid now Gijón based artist rightly needs no introduction here and his third artist album (following “Black Propaganda” in 2012) is bristling with assurance, experimentation, power and beauty. This is an exceptional and mature release from Mulero, full of highlights, just a few of which we cover here.
“Dualistic Concept” is a pure techno groove. Variations so subtle they are even hard to catch listening at home but put this on a big, quality system and immerse yourself in the sounds, then the intelligence of this production becomes apparent. Insidious percussion writhes slowly in and out of itself, underpinned with tight, thunderous bass and kicks. A beautifully understated break comes almost out of nowhere and the track builds again in waves of shimmering cymbals. A single missing kickdrum drives the pace onwards – heads down, heavy deepness.
The echoing, chiming notes of “Anatomical Variation” reminds me of Gamelan music – the gentle notes for the first few seconds sounding arrhythmic, and then revealing a cohesive, tight pattern. Is that a rimshot beat lending a dose of funk behind the hi-hats squarely in the forefront? The track builds into an immersive, disorienting soundscape that you could lose yourself in for much longer than the 5:38 runtime.
Then we hit “Interrelated.” I don’t think I’ve heard a tune quite like this before. On the one hand its pulsing, laser cut techno and in the other it’s a jangling, dissonant piano riff, full of lazy hot sunshine. Just as you’re getting used to this surprising and perfectly executed juxtaposition, an extended, wispy synth line introduces another element, with doubled kicks and hissing hats building the crescendos. As with many tracks on this album, the atmosphere and tension is expertly wound up and released. Incredible.
The title track features broad strokes of atmospheric synth, lovely bass drops and a broken beat that can either be taken as downtempo or frenetic depending on your mood. Later tracks on the album explore some esoteric ground – “Unconscious” and “Mental Causation” especially painting lush sonic landscapes that seem rooted in nature rather than electronics. For the rest, you need to go and find out yourself and enjoy your own experience!
If you know Mulero then you won’t need convincing with words to buy this album. If you don’t, then this stands as one of the defining productions of his career, and certainly one of the most significant releases you will see this year. In either case it’s unmissable.
Muscle and Mind is available from the PoleGroup bandcamp page on vinyl, CD and Digital.
– Reviewed by Stuart Ingram for deathtechno.com