A realistic, down-to-earth ambient album that’s completely off the wall and swarming with magic robots provides atmospheric material to align your chakras to
In 2023 the word kitsch isn’t used much anymore, perhaps because the concept is now so ubiquitous as to be redundant. This thought comes to mind when hearing the New Age stylings of Mycelium Music, the newest record from LA-based producer and Brainfeeder alumnus Matthewdavid.
But that’s not all: intentionally or otherwise, there’s something a bit unsettling about this album. While all the ambient hallmarks are here, from the cerebral pads to the lo-fi presentation, they’ve been cranked up to a higher level. Glitches snake around these tracks in an insidious, hissing manner, spatial effects make the listener feel as if they’re a bug trapped in an upturned glass, flying haphazardly around, and the uniform transitions invoke a series of rooms where each track is playing forever.
Speaking of repetition, each song is essentially structure-free, with the digitally manipulated notes floating around aimlessly in the ether. Sometimes a bassline provides extra definition, such as the meandering sine tones of Perpetuity, and tunes like Spills give us fragments of melody and chords so chopped up that they’re almost undiscernable. Grain seems to feature virtual birdsong reminiscent of Björk’s Utopia, and what might be best described as the zither trilogy provides some of the record’s highlights, especially Zithertronix’s fascinating jumble of notes, the metallic plucks filtered to produce something more sonorous and chiming.
In some ways the independent overlapping of sounds, with no regard for rhythm, harks back to Brian Eno’s first forays into ambient music in the mid-’70s. The level of intensity, however, breaks an initial tenet of the already hopelessly broad genre – its sound is too dominant to ignore. The only exception to this is the enjoyable burblings of Mlr, as the incessant arpeggaic flourishes fade in and out to create a soundbed on top of which something else could take place, but does not.
As a result Matthewdavid could be forgiven for feeling like the leader of an Itchy & Scratchy focus group, creating paradoxical affects from a set of conflicting parameters, though tracks like the clanking, droning X and the exhilarating swirls of Norns cut through the confusion and feel almost majestic in their richness. If parts of Mycelium Music struggle for a purpose, the novel sound design certainly makes for some atmospheric tracks to align your chakras to.