Mary Knoblock – Singles Review
Touring through Mary Knoblock’s entire catalog over this past week or so…I’ll tell you a few things about what I’ve discovered and pass on any insights I can…but first I want to talk about character…and why it matters.
You see…Mary, aka DJ MEK…is a looper! That dreaded word out there…the one that will almost always, in nearly every situation, leave you questioning how much of the artist themselves has made it into the music. Through communication behind the scenes here…I knew Mary was going to be the exception to that rule. There is a tremendous amount of personality in her writing & communication…the kind of sincerity that you instantly know will translate into each and every project, task or idea she’ll ever take on. She comes across as sweet, humble and passionate – and as far as first impressions go, mission accomplished – she made one on me. I rant and rave all the time here about how it can only take a second of your time as an artist or band when reaching out to establish some sort of a connection and Mary is proof that taking that time matters. It might sound bizarre to those that don’t write all day long every day…but I was able to tell from her character, enthusiasm and attitude in her correspondence that she’d have plenty of those ingredients in her music as well…and I was right.
Being a looper is still a form of musical-composition and still an art if you put your heart & soul into it. Mary proves that too.
In fact, her sixth album in just two years-time is coming out on September 20th, just around the corner. That’s right – SIXTH album in TWO years! Now ask yourself is your own passion for your own music and art is just as strong. DJ MEK has clearly found an outlet for her creativity…and I think a lot like the sporadic changes we experience in our lives as we live them, that creativity can take us into amazing new spaces, mindsets & territory in life altogether. She grew up as a painter…Mary has always been connected to art; she’s just choosing to use a different canvas now & clearly inspired like never before.
So let’s take you back for a moment to where it seems like it began and dig out some samples from her tunes on each of her records to give you an idea of what this multi-dimensional electro-talent is all about. “Crystal Hallways” was the first track I checked out, from the album of the same name. Solid beats, ideas and production for sure…all that immediately stands out yes; but it was the depth of imagination that I found in Mary’s music that continually impressed me throughout the structure. Again…many people out there might associate a looper with being unimaginative…and this is far from the case on “Crystal Hallways” – there are many times where you’ll realize that Mary could have kept it a lot more simple or added less into the mix…a few less transitions…and that’s what would prove the pessimistic people hating on electro-music to be correct, were she to go that direction like so many others. The fact that Mary adds so many different sounds, textures, transitions and layers into her structures like “Crystal Hallways” are what makes this an ART – and you can tell she has a voice in her music by the ways that she chooses to make her material move over skillfully constructed beats & bars. That being said – if you want an even more in-depth example of her capabilities, the following cut “Take Me To The Dance Hall” already seemed to reach for more than “Crystal Hallways” did, expanding her sound and expressing herself even more through the music. She’s got great percussion rhythms flowing freely and really clever accenting sounds in the atmosphere surrounding the beat…it all comes out sounding smooth through the transitions, even in the brightest elements of the music that stand-out in the contrast of songs like “Crystal Hallways” and “Take Me To The Dance Hall” sound like they somehow belong. And therein lies the true magic of Mary’s music…her ability to follow her vision for sound and to know that her instincts will in fact lead her to the right places in the end. “Wake Me In Your Dream” is the third track on Crystal Hallways…and every single time that song came on after listening to the opening two cuts, it just blew me away. The way she’s got this track mixed and assembled…the slow-burning intensity and immense quality of sound itself is a jaw-dropping, stunning moment in time that I couldn’t take my ears off of. Rhythmic & hypnotic with absolutely incredible textures in the atmosphere – Mary makes exceptional choices with the sounds she chooses to use and creates structures that the brain truly wants to follow along with. “Wake Me In Your Dream” was a massive win for Mary at the early stages of her music-career and sonic adventures…a song like this would have certainly encouraged me to continue on and it looks like the same was true for her as she goes on to the next album, Elevate.
“MDrewAcopy” = Methylenedioxyamphetamine? One always wonders when it comes to electro-music, where that inspiration may come from. No judgment from me in either scenario…I’m all about making the music you want to make however you want to make it…but key captilization written into the title of “MDrewAcopy” may/may-not lead to the answer for this bright & vibrant electro atmosphere on this cut, just sayin.’ I’m also saying that my Microsoft Word program really hates the word Methylenedioxyamphetamine, but google and science says it’s a thing…so…facts. Anyhow. I think this track from Elevate was a bit more of an ask for a typical listeners outside of the electro-genres…there are a couple of sounds on this one that run a bit repetitively after the switch around the 2-min mark, which is bound to happen occasionally in electro-music of all-kinds; sometimes those sounds can be our best friends or our worst enemies. For electro-fans like myself, you’ll hear that there’s plenty of hook & pull in the song’s main elements and that they’re edited spectacularly well into the mix…for others, they’ll be looking for more versatility. In my opinion, they can just go find themselves ANOTHER song to listen to – because what Mary’s doing on “MDrewAcopy” is just fine with me…that’s what’s happening in THIS moment of her story…and I think there’s a validity to that established over time. While it might become a little sonically-obsessed at times towards the end, you can’t help but notice the smooth electro-sounds that DJ MEK has flowing to start the Elevate record with the opening of MDrewAcopy” – that’s going to win the people over quickly and invite them in.
“Remix Heaven Again,” also from Elevate, takes the sound into what’s perhaps arguably less accessible terrain than how the album starts with “MDrewAcopy” – but I think for real fans of electro, there might be even more here. The sounds that Mary is choosing are EXQUISITE…you hear me people? I love the way she’s got this cut laid out…love the synth sounds and how they like, actually drive this beat but that they’re also pretty much the last thing you notice because there is endless amounts of creativity happening constantly overtop. Really loved the final minutes of this cut too and how it plays with the tempo & sound of what’s a very traditional part of EDM music and twists it into something wickedly entertaining for the ears to listen to. Breaking it down even further to the song’s intimate ending…you really appreciate just how enormous the overall ride of “Remix Heaven Again” really is by the way the song collapses like a star inward on itself by the end – brilliantly executed. This track also carries into another incredibly atmospheric cut laced with subtle jazz & groove in it, called “Ballard Ballet” – which is the immaculate ending to her Elevate record and another highly expressive and impressive track that serves as the perfect finale for the album. The mid-song breakdown is awesome, the piano and subtle electro-elements are used so sparingly and so wisely here…Mary’s given a lot of space to the sound & tones of what we hear on “Ballard Ballet” and it’s a mesmerizing experience as a result…really captivating sounds and great choices being made by DJ MEK as to what to include at the end of Elevate to make us want to come back for MORE.
And we DO want MORE…so we head on over to a song called “The Wooden Music Chair” from her album Champagne Socialists…the final record released in 2016 from an amazingly productive first year. Almost like a celebration of those triumphant achievements – “The Wooden Music Chair” sounds and moves like it’s incredibly inspired…great beat, crisp and vibrant sound to the beginning. The piano sounds that she begins to thread into the music just past the 1:30 mark await the switch in the melody from the rest of the music to come along with them; at first those tones are awkward to the ears and jarring…and they’re somewhat quickly abandoned for much smoother string sounds to fill the speakers. Piano does come back towards the final minute and plays a real hero in the song as it did in the beginning. Some ideas like Linus Loves of Dada Life in the way she approaches the building, structure and evolution on “The Wooden Music Chair” and Mary really makes this one move & shift brilliantly as it plays from part-to-part. There’s like…real added tension and drama you can hear in the inspiring sound of “The Wooden Music Chair” – it’s almost hard to describe, but for the better part of this tune, I felt like I had a real connection to it…like this song has been inside me all along and just waiting for someone out there to express something similar. And let’s face facts…I’m not going into this in-depth, but let’s just say that Mary Knoblock understands how to CRUSH IT at the end of her records…almost each and every one you’ll hear has a spectacular highlight of the entire album right in that final song, and the following track “Hawthorne Rooftops” on Champagne Socialists proves that to be true yet again, trust me on that.
Could be that it was a new year…but 2017 seemed to bring out further evolution in Mary’s music and her focus on an even more accessible sound. “Good Enough Undone” from the album One Way is a solid example of her really reaching for more melodic, angelic and graceful tones throughout the electro-universe and bringing them into her own style & approach. You still get the layers of atmosphere and stunning choices of sound…but it definitely seems like Mary’s made the effort to head in a more dreamy direction here with “Good Enough Undone” and I think people will really dig that. This track really flows fluidly like water, spilling soft but vibrant tones throughout the sound surrounding you as it slowly envelops the overall mood and movement of “Good Enough Undone” – it switches between beautiful & playful attitudes with ease & professionalism…and both the breakdowns & ending of this tune are all completely captivating & compellingly gorgeous.
Speaking of captivating – how about the beginning of her most recent release, Heart Shaker and the record’s title-track? Excellent mix of ideas here; I think she’s really managed to make what is actually quite the odd blend of sounds into something highly accessible and completely worth your time to check out. “Heart Shaker” will be off the beaten-path for MANY people out there…but that’s what makes finding new music such an amazing thing when it comes out sounding as cool as this does. “Heart Shaker” is like…one part creepy, one part danceable and all-out awesomeness. Mix, stir & serve. It’s probably one of the more odd combinations and choices in sounds that she’s made over the course of her catalog that I’ve been sampling…but something about the insightful way she’s got this track laid out to move is what I think will really win the people over. Electro-fans or not – I think a song like “Heart Shaker” completely gives people something entirely interesting to listen to that they’ve probably not ever experienced…and the value & contribution that can make to someone’s life is immeasurable. Excellent tune and a great start to her latest record…and further proof that you’ll never know what to expect from Mary when she comes out with her brand-new album on September 20th – be ready!
As I had mentioned at the very beginning of this review…I knew Mary was going to come out of this entire experience with a checkmark in the win-column…because character MATTERS. It shines in her writing just talking with her, it also shines in the way she composes her electro rhythms and puts her own genuinely vibrant personality right into the music. Don’t believe me yet for some reason? How about “Snow Leopard” from Heart Shaker – THAT is what personality sounds like in electro. I love the deadly, sleek way that “Snow Leopard” moves; Mary’s continually shown different dimensions to her own palette and style…and perhaps none of what I’ve discussed so far shows this as strongly as the uniqueness of “Snow Leopard” does. So I saved that to the end…you know…to drive the point home and because it obviously completely supports the narrative. But don’t be fooled by words or gimmicky…I don’t need to sell you on Mary’s music because the creative way she approaches her art is all you’d need to convince you anyhow. She creates highly entertaining songs that consistently give you something new and exciting for yours ears to listen to…and who doesn’t want more of that?
Find music from Mary Knoblock at her official page at Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/0TmjI5fjQDkySmuLpKJHO6
You can also find her music at Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/mary-knoblock and at iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/mary-knoblock/id1142221114
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