In his newest release Body Wash, Mndsgn (née Ringgo Ancheta) brings us on an inter-dimensional electro-funk adventure through space and time, combining psychedelia and R&B in masterful and innovative ways. In his words, Body Wash is “a soul record that plays with nostalgic elements in a very dynamic & positive way. Think about it as a box of crayons for you to draw emotions with.”
In conjunction with this description, the album is loosely based on an illusory story that goes something like this: a homeless man meets an enigmatic woman who offers to take him in, and then has him bathe with a strange body wash that surrounds him as he soaks. Eventually, he is transported to an alternate dimension. The narrative is a subtle one; though looser themes of self-realization and human connection are easily identifiable from the tracks, it is only through the track titles (“Enter Her Abode,” “Prelude 2 Purification,” and “Lather” to name a few) along with album title that hint at the underlying story.
So, we’ve established that Mndsgn is not your typical R&B producer. It may have something to do with his childhood history and his past collaborations: he was raised on a commune in rural New Jersey by Filipino immigrants, and in the early 2000’s befriended and then collaborated with Kendrick Lamar producer Knxwledge to form the Klipm0de crew. He moved to L.A to pursue his beat passion and was featured in various albums (notably, Blasphemous Jazz’s Bitches Brew) before releasing his debut album, Yawn Zen.
Body Wash provides a glimpse at Mndsgn’s growth and exploration as an artist since Yawn Zen, which was more of a sprawling, wandering experiment of an album. His sophomore release is tighter, more produced, and more focused; the frequent inclusion of his own vocals is a welcome addition as well. Ancheta’s voice serves as a quiet, unobtrusive addition to fluorescent and layered instrumentals, floating in and out of music as if from a dream. At times, it adds air of introspection; at others, it serves as an echo for the music, reflecting and deepening the message without driving it.
There is a clear directional quality to Body Wave, marked physically with a beginning (“Overture”) and an ending (“Guess It’s All Over”). The album is awash in vintage 80’s and 90’s R&B themes, with fluctuating tones overlaid to set the mood of the track. Some tracks have more of a jazz influence (“Release Ya Mind (Twentyfourseven)”), while others are straight funk (“Vague//Recalibrate”). All throughout Body Wash is the riff of psychedelic influences and modern synth; Mndsgn samples from retro sounds, but does not entirely channel the past, choosing instead to use it as a platform onto which he can build his soundscape.
Nota bene: It has been recommended (and I would echo this sentiment) to listen to the album all the way through. The tracks build on one another to establish a common thread, and while the listener may have to hone in on a few songs to realize their potential, it is best to let Body Wash soak in slowly over time.
Album released: September 16, 2016
–review by Juliana Van Amsterdam