Tag Archives: psychedelia


Album Review: MNDSGN – Body Wash

a3786040268_10In 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



Album Review: The Serious EP – Bibio

WRP9385EP_1024x1024On his earlier 2016 release A Mineral Love, low-fi electronica artist Bibio (née Stephen Wilkinson) utilized Olivier St. Louis’s angelic croon on the playfully keen track “Why So Serious?.” The seed of a beautiful R&B psychedelia union having been planted, it came to many as no surprise when the duo reunited for a blossoming EP, assumedly titled after the song that started this partnership. While Bibio usually explores the electronic psychedelia realm with great success, he has expanded his territory for The Serious EP to add in bouncy ’80s synth and R&B effects that subtly weave in between shuffling beats and the aqueous electric guitar featured in many of his tracks. The combination provides a bright foil to St. Louis’s soft falsetto, sliding in and out of the layered instrumentals.

The pair had a mutual respect for each other before they started the collaboration, working almost exclusively on tracks over email and communicating through WhatsApp. Most of the instrumentals, provided by Wilkinson, were outtakes and leftover tracks from A Mineral Love, modified in part to mesh more effectively with St. Louis’s lyrics (all lyrics on The Serious EP were written by St. Louis, though Bibio is a songwriter as well). Interestingly, the vocals on the EP’s final track were written for an alternate version of “A Mineral Love.” While the original “A Mineral Love” provided the title track to A Mineral Love, the alternate version became “Night Falls.” The similarities in the instrumentals of the two tracks, while subtle, shine through upon a second listen.

The opening track is the familiar “Why So Serious?,” which was included in A Mineral Love; it continues to be a great reminder of how two solo artists can make excellent collaborators. Growling synth and a staccato underlying beat make for an undeniably groovy sensation, strengthened still by St. Louis’s playful lyrics and sexy R&B croon. “Make Up” is a more subdued track, with St. Louis singing barely above a whispered falsetto; Bibio’s own instrumental influences are featured more heavily here, with rolling synthetic beats and methodical guitar chords. “Stress Me Out” begins with a staccato beat and more aggressive electric guitar; the music is as blunt and forward as Bibio seems capable of, and is the farthest he strays in this EP from his normal areas of expertise. St. Louis demonstrates his excellent vocal abilities on this track, catapulting from a nasal whine to a simmering falsetto, descending the scale again with ease. “Night Falls” is a sultry track replete with synthetic shimmer effects (oh, to revisit that era again) and low, soft vocals mixed with sweet falsetto. The bass line shines in this song, enhancing the retro themes and grounding the track.

The Serious EP is, in all reality, anything but what it professes to be. Bibio has made a rather successful career off the utilization of retro sounds and rhythms, and he does not stray from the path for this EP. Instead, he and St. Louis capture the quintessential R&B and keep it pleasant and light, singing about love in broad strokes to smooth, jaunty tunes. While many R&B artists (looking at you, Frank Turner and Blood Orange) have repeatedly revolutionized the genre and helped buoy its relevance in the changing political and social climate, Bibio and Olivier St. Louis have released a nostalgic, good-natured EP that harkens back to simpler themes. Bibio is not a bona-fide R&B artist by trade, so while he utilizes many of those thematic elements in The Serious EP, he also continues to incorporate his own musical influences. Consider it R&B Lite: providing a glossy, breezy collection of tracks that float just above the current R&B climate.

Album released: September 2, 2016

review by Juliana Van Amsterdam


Album Review: Oh Inhuman Spectacle – Methyl Ethel

fec20949In commemoration of the first day of “spring,” I give you the new underground summer album. Methyl Ethel’s debut album, Oh Inhuman Spectacle, is a refreshing infusion of dream pop and art rock, sufficient for insomniac nights and hazy summer road trips. Jake Webb, the artist behind the recorded Methyl Ethel, hails from Perth, Australia; the same isolated city that gave us Kevin Parker of Tame Impala and Luke Steel of Empire of the Sun. For live performances he is joined by Thom Stewart and Chris Wright, who joined Methyl Ethel after Webb’s work gained traction. The sound is quite similar to Tame Impala, with whom the trio are friendly; however, Webb’s solitary writing gives it the darker, more fidgety quality reminiscent of early Violent Femmes. Webb combines vintage psychedelia with today’s technological advances in track mixing and layering to create a spacey, warm vibe.

Oh Inhuman Spectacle was written by Webb over the course of one summer in a small coastal town, and the solitude bleeds into the writing and production. The album also attains a saturated quality, reflective of both humid, hot summer days and quiet, cool summer nights. The tracks oscillate between trippy ditties to play during long bouts of insomnia and off-kilter grooves to blast with the windows down on a long drive. Each track has a different flavor, as if Webb is providing the listener a sample of his daily moods; a single taste of involvement before he closes the door to work in quiet seclusion once more. 

Oh Inhuman Spectacle starts out drenched in a sepia tone, with warm fuzzy beats to march along to; as the album moves along, however, the tracks get noticeably darker, adopting a cooler palette of sounds. “Idée Fixe” opens the album, easing the listener in as Webb’s voice slides along, with harmonic afterimages trailing behind him. The track then blooms into groovy dream pop; Webb’s voice adopts a more urgent tone, with a deep bass beat stepping alongside him. “To Swim” is mostly instrumental, save for the occasional fuzzed-out lyrics. It is ambient as all get-out in tone, something to put on when the wee hours of the morning hit and sleep is far in the horizon. The only downside is that this track is one of the shortest on the album; the remedy of course would be to stretch the two minutes by pressing repeat. Webb pursues this ambience again in the longer “Depth Perception,” though with less success.

“Twilight Driving” is a Beach House-esque track that opens with familiar keyboard intervals, some nice bedhead lyrics, and a subtle saxophone interlude. It gives a sensual edge to an otherwise peppy driving song, allowing for versatility. The closing track, “Everything Is As It Should Be,” is an unspoken homage to Radiohead’s Kid A; Webb’s voice adopts Thom Yorke’s eerie falsetto. Though it retains the same umbrella themes as the opener, “Everything Is As It Should Be” is comes off as the darkening sky after a particularly hazy sunset; the atmosphere of the sound grows cooler, more austere.

Unlike the ambient “late-night” feel of the more instrumental songs in Oh Inhuman Spectacle, this track is more guarded, and tinged with sadness. It is as if Webb used this album to give the listener a glimpse of summer in song; the season opens with off-the-cuff excitement and bliss, but ends in an austere and nostalgic manner, often tinged with uncertainty. While Webb is still a novice to the psychedelic pop scene, he has come armed with the ability to take silence and solitude and transform it into a quite inclusive soundscape.

Album released: February 29, 2016 (general release)

review by Juliana Van Amsterdam 


Album Review: King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Paper Mâché Dream Balloon


It felt wrong to be listening to Paper Mâché Dream Balloon, the latest release from Melbourne-based group King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, on a crappy winter’s day in Montreal. This sunny collection of songs provides a healthy dose of summer nostalgia, with simple melodies and gentle chord progressions that will make you want to float off down a lazy river somewhere. Continue reading