mentalEscape – Drama – EP Review
Hats off to Mirza Causevic, the man behind the music of mentalEscape – over the course of his eight new cuts on his Drama EP, he really brought me to a great combination of nostalgia & an all-new experience. Nostalgic because it took me right back to when I was first discovering brilliant sounds in ambient/experimental IDM music like Boards Of Canada, Aphex Twin and Four Tet – all-new because we’ve got a fresh perspective via mentalEscape in a style of music I sincerely love and always have. When I listened to the Drama EP, I concluded that both Mirza and I must have found the same inspirations and exciting challenges that came along with a genre in which there are no limitations other than the imagination and ability of the artist or project creating the music…because not only does he really understand how to make electro interesting, but he’s also never once forgotten melody. As much as I might have my moments where I dig right into the wild electro-frontier through songs that never made any damn sense at all throughout the Aphex Twin catalog, I liked those for a different reason; when it came to Aphex, Boards or Four Tet, my preference was always the more melodic-side of their experimentations in sound. I’ve always had a love for experimental and IDM, don’t get me wrong, but it’s also a massive benefit to the ears when they’re given something tangible to latch on to. Mirza plays this set of eight incredibly smart and ALWAYS gives your ears that special something to captivate you.
With an overdriven bass-beat that roars in as mentalEscape begins Drama with “Storytelling,” the music breaks beautifully into a sweetened & sincere electro melody like coming through the fog and into the crystal clear. The longest cut on the record at over five & a half minutes in length, mentalEscape threads innocent and humble electro sounds in a gorgeously understated way – or does the exact opposite as well through big, bold & dramatic parts along the journey as “Storytelling” transitions. Those moments where it switches, like just prior to the three & a half minute mark, work brilliantly in the music’s favor, grabbing our attention through the loud/quiet dynamics in the structure & flow of “Storytelling” and using highly imaginative tones that we can connect with. The reason as to WHY we can connect with the ideas and flow of a song like “Storytelling” comes down to the fact that mentalEscape has a wild & passionate understanding of sound itself – the texture in the selections & choices Mirza makes all jump out at you like they’re played in 3D…and you’ll find that kind of magic in his approach all over Drama.
If you listen closely though…you’ll hear that things are about to get extremely interesting. The last fifteen seconds of “Not This Life (Van Sebe)” break away from the smooth electro vibe we had going on and into a final switch that reveals the spark of intensity that’s about to take us into the heart of Drama.
It can often be hard to pick a ‘single’ from instrumental electro tunes, just due to the fact that all too many people out there hear music without words as just background noise. Sometimes however, you can find a track that speaks so loudly on behalf of the genre that you know it couldn’t possibly be ignored – and the gigantic, menacing mix of danger, mystique & mayhem of the synth bass-line running through “Rebuild” has the kind of memorable sound I guarantee the people will respond to. You get about fifteen or so seconds of an intro that quickly builds before those absolutely wicked tones come pulsing out, brilliantly complemented by the beat & surrounding electro elements. Everything about the sound of “Rebuild” is as BIG as it gets – and listen to the incredible way mentalEscape fills in the atmosphere surrounding the meatiest hook that any man has ever created with moments like the 1:20-ish mark and around 2:10 where he adds even more texture into the layers of the mix. What impressed me, time and again as I listened, was that even in the most threadbare moments where the music is left to the main haunting rhythm & groove, “Rebuild” was never any less powerful; that main hook is so incredibly captivating, hypnotic, looming & large that it becomes the undeniable backbone of this song. Rightly so – that’s a serious hook & attention to detail in the music that I think absolutely everyone out there would notice – it’s like he brought the essence of the shadows in the scariest dark alley you’ve walked down to life here…like this song will have you looking over your shoulder or turning the lights on just to make sure it’s all good…or that you’ll at least be able to somehow see this song coming to get you.
After the audio-statement of “Rebuild” it becomes easy to readily accept the experimental ideas that mentalEscape brings to electro from there on. “Elephant Stomper” takes the record into a more decisively intense, complex and elevated breakbeat-style, which feels like a decision that DJ Shadow would make and a great switch in sound on the Drama EP. I think it would be tough for ANY song to stand out after “Rebuild” and I think Mirza has chosen extremely wisely with “Elephant Stomper” to confidently continue on the record. He uses an incredible amount of space, as much as things sound intense, it’s that space that makes all the difference as this song shifts through different speeds, transitions and gears. The gigantic synth sounds that come roaring in are MASSIVE and highly entertaining, often accompanied by added percussion beats that kick-in real thunder into the mix. He’s using a simple set of musical ingredients in a complex way on “Elephant Stomper” – and as a result, I think he gets the maximum result out of this point in the EP as it prepares to shift into the second half.
“Mrak” is an excellent start to the final four cuts on the Drama EP – it’s like your nightmares spring to life but also take the time to do like, a Thriller-style 80’s synth breakdown dance-party in the process. “Mrak” undoubtedly takes the EP into more experimental and less universally-accessible terrain, but if you’ve been hooked on every moment leading up to this song, “Mrak” likely cements your love for what’s happening in the music of mentalEscape. Decisively different than the rest of the cuts so far, “Mrak” combines really clever layers into one highly imaginative & darkly-creative vibe in its most atmospherically intense moments but also transitions between oddly danceable grooves that are certain to catch the listening ears out there. If you notice, in the links below, Mirza also has an IMDB credit – and I think a song like “Mrak” also shows just how suitable his music could be in a soundtrack setting, or at least how the influence of TV/Film has crept into the haunting & vivid vibes you’ll find on this tune.
I mentioned that nostalgic reference early on to my love of Boards Of Canada…and…I could be crazy here, but isn’t a lot of like, “Dream Lotus And Cinderella” like the BOC track “The Beach At Red Point” with some real LIFE in its veins? At least in the beginning…mentalEscape sheds that skin pretty quickly in favor of another, and another, and another, over the course of the wildly experimental ideas on “Dream Lotus And Cinderella.” Within less than a minute’s time, we’re already into the thick of what sounds like a completely new groove as mentalEscape flexes one of the best assets of Mirza’s approach to songs-within-songs. The kind of hooks that he’s capable of creating and just quickly move on from at times will leave you kind of speechless really, knowing full-well that another electro-act or artist out there would potentially milk some of these parts on “Dream Lotus And Cinderella” for eight-minutes or longer and likely have each part as their own main track. I think that’s part of the magic in mentalEscape’s music personally…it’s like each part serves its purpose and we’re onto the next…the movement & flow in the structure of sound in the songs & the EP as a whole never quits for a single second. Even in the quietest moments, the space plays a role, or subtle additions like you’ll find on “Dream Lotus And Cinderella” like breath noises, water drops or a couple notes of electro-melody all keep our attention firmly affixed.
I like the brightness in the ice-like sounds of the melody on “Baksuzluk” and I’d have to say I liked the song overall when it comes right down to it, though perhaps I had a more up/down relationship with this one track more than any other on the record. I suppose by comparison to the intense roll that mentalEscape has been on from “Rebuild” on forward, really digging into those experimental ideas and pushing the boundaries of what we know in electro, “Baksuzluk” almost came out TOO chilled out. I found myself wandering a bit around the one-minute mark feeling like this track still needed just a pinch of salt or something to make it all come together and be strong enough to fit onto the Drama EP. But again, that’s by comparison to ALL that’s come before it already…and you have to recognize that structurally, “Baksuzluk” serves a purpose in starting that descent towards the final moments of the EP by bringing down the intensity, increasing the atmospheric elements and spreading out the sound.
“Baksuzluk” provides that break you need to reset and be able to absorb the final jam, “Betty Elms” – it’s because of that wide-open & chill sound that you immediately jump right into the catchy D&B-influenced rhythm and handclaps filling the air to create this beat. Following some shakers & hi-hats in the mix, the beat comes in right away and instantly satisfies…it SOUNDS like the final moments of an audio-experience and I really dig that – “Betty Elms” started out feeling really conclusive. The brighter melody that occurs overtop around the fifty-second mark was an interesting and odd choice at the same time. There’s no doubt in my mind after listening to the Drama EP that mentalEscape isn’t aware already of how odd that pairing becomes with the synth melody in behind it…which again speaks to the fact that Mirza is always looking to take that path less travelled in pursuit of his own ideas in music. The majority of “Betty Elms” is highly accessible and reliably chill…another track that I’d assume would get people moving along with a beat that has real depth and inside of an experience they wouldn’t see coming. There are multiple surprises in-store for the listener on mentalEscape’s Drama EP, on “Betty Elms” just as much as the rest really – it’s a highly versatile electro record that keeps you guessing & interested in the best of ways and connects through a passionate understanding of sound dynamics.
Find out more about mentalEscape through the official pages below!
Apple Music: https://itunes.apple.com/album/id/1326406108
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