mentalEscape – Grunge Tape – Album Review
Well I’ve certainly learned a few new things so far!
Like…here’s a fun fact you might not know – when you pull a record off of Spotify, it still leaves an unplayable impression? Who knew that? So like, what – we get to LOOK at it for the rest of time, but never listen again? Earth to Spotify…that seems altogether pointless. Mind you, I never get the whole putting up & pulling down & moving around of stuff online either…I’m one of those guys that’s all about the history and enjoying the journey…everything I’ve ever done, plays a role in who I’ve become today.
Anyhow! I suppose the real moral of the story is, if you were lucky enough to have gotten a copy of mentalEscape’s album Drama from back in 2018…seems like you might have yourself a verifiable collector’s item now. No record or trace of that album that I can find out there online anymore, aside from an unplayable digital imprint…other than that, if you were to look at the Spotify list now, you’ll see a handful of singles that date back to 2020 – & now Grunge Tape released in March 2021, still fresh AF. So sure…maybe to most people it looks like this project is still just getting off the ground – but we know better here at SBS…we’ve been riding with mentalEscape long before 2020, and will be for many more. We’ll have to get some kind of petition going or something to bring it back…Drama was a rad record.
From the mind of Mirza Causevic, mentalEscape has always been built on cutting-edge sound, bold texture, and quick moving ideas that flex multiple dimensions of depth in production & style. Grunge Tape instantly brings in the tension & drama as “Bolest” begins to rumble & shake the walls around you, wherever you’re at, all the way from where he’s based out of way over in Boston, Massachusetts. Creepin’ on into the start, the mysterious & curious sounds in the atmosphere bounce around ya while the beat & surging Electro vibes keep this first slice of audio entertainment fully loaded, if not spilling right over the seams! The chef is clearly back in the kitchen here y’all – mentalEscape comes out hittin’ hard with BIG BIG sound that’s certainly not holding back on us or showing any signs of restraint. In terms of a first impression, there’s a couple ways it’ll go when it comes to the masses out there & we can talk about that in a minute here on the next cut, but suffice it to say for now, that this kind of wild & vibrant sound boomin’ outta the speakers is bound to get the attention of anyone within earshot, 100%.
Being real here, it’s called the Grunge Tape quite likely for a reason or two – one certainly being the beastly amount of sound you’ll find coming at ya not always seeming to be the cleanest. With the red-line style bass-beats dominating the opening cut and the bulk of “Last Shot” to follow – don’t get me wrong, I can hear the technique in the production, and I get the concept – and every time the clarity hits, I know the rest is always a stylistic choice being made all along. Musicians will get that too. Will the rest of the masses? That’s the inherent risk mentalEscape is running with the style he’s rockin’ & first impressions being made with the music on Grunge Tape – some people are gonna dismiss what they hear as simply blown out…and there’s so much more to it than that. The thing is, there’s next to no point in even telling a producer this kinda stuff…they already know – so it really just becomes a case of whether or not gigantic sound is your jam to begin with, and how well your speakers can handle it all. It’s Post-Industrial y’all – be prepared for things to get real mean & gnarly & gritty…texture of sound plays a huge role in that entire genre, and mentalEscape has an incredible grip on how to do it right. I mean, that’s bass so BIG that you’d feel this track even if your ears didn’t work, you feelin’ me? “Last Shot” has that massive sound that when turned up even halfway on a car stereo rollin’ down the block, the neighbors are gonna think the apocalypse has just rolled into town, and on a whole lot more than just a mere four horses. And while it IS verifiably all that enormous and THEN some, you’ll also find there a seriously accessible hook in the mix for you to dig on as well shared between the piano-melody & synth sounds that complements the all-out deadly low-end with just enough sweetness to balance out the experience & make this track really feel like a complete journey from start to finish, and repeatable.
Working with a stellar selection of mechanical sound, bold digitalized vibes, and even a dash of serenity through the melody in the atmosphere every so often to give you the full palette, “Dragged Down” is full of meaty digital grooves and jaw-dropping enormity. As the set begins on Grunge Tape, it’s almost as if our main man MIZ here, aka mentalEscape, is having a contest with himself as to just how much sound he can get into one tune without the world imploding in all around him – and I am HERE FOR IT folks. I also think “Dragged Down” is a crucial cut that you’ll find early on in the lineup that boasts more clarity in the overall production, in a way that completely proves the point I was making earlier on. Don’t get it twisted here y’all – if something sounds overcooked or across the reds of the studio boards, I can almost promise ya it ain’t – it’s a stylistic choice that mentalEscape makes for the vision he’s got for what this project is all about. If anything, I’d assume that’s why the Drama record can’t be found out there online anymore; chances are, this music that mentalEscape is making now is much closer to the style MIZ has always envisioned. Anyhow…the point I was making is that the buzz-saw-meets-jackhammer sound of “Dragged Down” and the startling clarity it does have, actually confirms that mentalEscape can do dirty, mentalEscape can do clean…and it could go either way at any time throughout the course of this record; but it’s all by choice. There’s not a doubt in my mind that someone with the precision & skill like Mirza has could rock out a set of club cuts in a half hour or less without even blinking an eye – there’s so much more to making music for mentalEscape and its explorative ways…it’s one of the best things about this whole project and always has been. Dudes like this guy push the boundaries of what we think we know.
That being said, I feel like someone should tell Mirza that this album is really, really hard to sing along to. I bet no one has told him that, so maybe he’s just not aware? It’s not like I haven’t been trying here. I’m kidding of course…I’m just seeing who’s still awake & reading out there – that ain’t what mentalEscape is all about – this is music that speaks for itself, loud & proud, without a word required. “Ghaddar” is one of a few tunes on this record that you’ll find combines what’s nearly a cinematic theme of sorts inside of the melody, which takes place on the inside of a whole bunch of other wildness that continually threatens to murder your stereo. You’ll find a couple similarities here in the style & sound to tunes like “Elm Street” and “Zero” later on in the set…it’s a switch that mentalEscape will throw every so often and heighten the degree of drama, tension, freakin’ FEAR at times, and yes, malicious melody into the mix, and it always seems to work well in this dude’s favor. The assembly of complex tracks like these are monumentalEscape tasks…trust me when I say, everything you’ll hear from the front to the back sounds like it comes with enough juice to power a modest nuclear bomb, and MIZ is known to have his hand steadily perched atop the button, just waiting for an excuse to set it off. “Ghaddar” will take a bunch of twists that you don’t expect or remotely see coming in transition as well…it’s dynamic, versatile, and a riotously clever cut that’s structured to chop itself up in a million different directions in one experience.
Like, “Keep Secrets” is just straight up genius if you were to ask me. I ain’t gonna lie to good ol’ Mirza and tell the man he’s made the easiest record for the masses to enjoy overall – he already knows that ain’t the case – the ideas are super strong, but the production is gonna throw most people on the outside of Post-Industrial, EDM, and the whole Bass-Beat community for a complete loop. On the flipside of that coin, any time the masses wouldn’t be able to hang with what an artist of any kind creates, the ol’ street cred tends to rise in tandem as well. I listen to a track like “Keep Secrets” and I’m seriously blown away…I recognize not everyone will hear it the same way I do, and that the amount of control that’s really occurring in production would be lost on so many, but what mentalEscape is doing is pretty damn next-level all-around from a mere technical standpoint, let alone the impressive ideas you’ll find running rampant throughout this record. This is just all-out deadly though; supremely subtle and smartly played, “Keep Secrets” SOUNDS like keeping secrets…I mean, we don’t KNOW that until we hear this song, but as soon as you do, you’re like, yep, that’s it right there, that’s the very sound of keeping secrets. Sleek design, with low-end that’s still incredibly big & bold no matter how chilled-out & mellow mentalEscape might seem to be on the surface of this tune – “Keep Secrets” is one of the best cuts on this record all-around as far as I’m concerned…everything is off-the-charts cool to listen to on this track.
“Elm Street” is a freakin’ badass song too. Not only does it savagely play on old-school horror movie themes and give it a fully refreshed update through the mentalEscape treatment in sound, but the stellar amount of editing & attention to detail here is all-out impeccable stuff & highly inventive. And are those samples of barking dogs digitalized to all-hell and then worked into this tune, or am I crazy? You listen to enough mentalEscape and believe me, it’ll always tax your brain a bit to keep up with this dude, there’s never been any claim made here otherwise – but the endless array of spectacular selection in sound and the way he’s able to wield it like an audible weapon to his every advantage always makes every trip well worth the ride. Lots of stuff pops out atcha through your speakers on this track, determined to make an impact, shock your system, or just straight-up entertain ya – and quite likely, all three at the same damn time. mentalEscape’s got an evil amount of skill on display throughout “Elm Street” – and the kind of innovation in his music that should give the rest of the scene nightmares while they toss and turn, trying to sleep while wondering how in the hell they can get this much killer sound into their own music. Spoiler alert – ya probably can’t – mentalEscape is comparable to very few out there when it comes right down to it…closest I’ve got in the Indie-scene I’m livin’ in would be to something like Cirex, and especially this particular track right here. That works for me, that’s good company to be keepin’ and another dude that approaches music with that math-like approach that leaves no detail unaccounted for – “Elm Street” jams with innovative creativity, and I’m fully diggin’ it.
“Pam And Lam” also rams and jams – mentalEscape pulls no punches with this track & gives you a verifiably large & in-charge performance through the expert assembly & structure you’ll find guiding this track. Every single ticking second you’ll hear in this song leaps out towards ya without hesitation, and provides a seriously fired-up spark to start up the record’s latter-half of the set. From the rapid-fire stutter-shot beats in the mix, to the spread-out atmospheric vibes on top – “Pam And Lam” will have ya feeling like you found your way into an arcade game, ready to blast your way to victory & a high-score. Ultimately I think the hooks on this cut are so much more surprisingly accessible and effective than people would even realize on a first or second spin – “Pam And Lam” is by far & away one of the most addictive tracks in the lineup of this record, but that might very well sneak up on ya; it did on me. I felt like I was mightily impressed on that first couple spins through it to begin with…but then I started to CRAVE this surging Electro live-wire rhythm & groove that mentalEscape rocks so perfectly on this cut, and addicted to it is where I proudly remain to this very day, right to the very minute you’re reading this.
Not much stopping me from proclaiming “Zero” as one of my favorites from start to finish though…no one edits my work but me, myself, and I! And while from a production & quality standpoint, it’s nearly impossible to separate a track you’d like from one you’d love on Grunge Tape – I suppose we’ve all got tracks we tend to lean on after enough spins…songs we know always deliver that special something our ears are looking for. With a more decisive turn towards the melodic aspect of sound running through “Zero” and that spectacular rumble of the bass-beat & texture to it, this was a huge hit for me personally. I know I made several comparisons to Aphex Twin the last time around in reviewing mentalEscape’s music – but this is one of those tracks where you can hear in the production that the similarities still exist, which is more than cool with me. It’s that bubble in the bass-tones…I have no idea how you’d describe what it actually is…but it’s just got such fantastic presence in the music every time it bounces out at ya again. “Zero” also ends up diving into another moment or two pulled right out of the classic horror movies as well, much like “Elm Street” did earlier on…maybe even more pronounced here; you’ll hear what sounds like a meatier version of the Halloween theme of sorts in the mix along the way. Rest assured though, “Zero” flexes multiple realms of sound as we know MIZ likes to do; it’s almost hard to say any of these cuts sound like this or that, because they’re all-inclusive – there’s this, that, & more!
“Fade Away” will probably be the biggest head-scratcher for most out there, given that it’s got about a solid two-minutes more in length than every other cut, and arguably uses that time to head into more experimental & avant-garde terrain, at a much less frantic pace than we’ve been typically experiencing so far. That’s not to say you won’t find plenty in the mix movin’ & shakin’ – c’mon now, it’s mentalEscape – what have you read here that would lead you to believe there won’t be enough to keep ya entertained – you know it will! “Fade Away” is simply working with a much more sly set of ideas that aren’t quite as in our face as most of the other tracks have been in that collage-of-sound sense of the matter…it’s more of a widespread idea that doesn’t seem to really even care if we catch on or not. MIZ is doin’ his thang – if you dig it, pull up a chair & sit down, have yourself a listen – and if ya don’t, feel free to mosey on down the line to make room for someone else hoss. “Fade Away” locks into a real mix of mesmerizing, hypnotic, and yes, experimental ideas at work here as well – but not only does it provide one of the most unique moments you’ll find in this whole set of songs, but generally speaking, you could likely argue this is the sign of mentalEscape testing out the waters while breaking new ground. Will it be the favorite cut from Grunge Tape for the people listening out there? If I’m being real with ya, it’s probably going to take this track a few more spins to sink in & resonate with the Electro/Industrial crowd than most on Grunge Tape will…but hey, I ain’t sayin’ it’s a total impossibility…maybe it’s your #1.
Another serious standout to me was “Sour Amnesia” – this track hits hard and ain’t afraid to get all kinds of wild on ya. While it’s arguable that to a degree, you’ll feel like “Sour Amnesia” sticks to its main melody and a tighter structure in terms of accessibility – I mean, when you got sound like THIS, you rock this right into the ground until the people can’t take no more as far as I’m concerned. mentalEscape has got that real tasty Electro-juice surging perfectly throughout this track like he’s captured lightning in a bottle, splashin’ a lil’ something special on the people out there that they’re sure to love sippin’ on. This is one of those cuts that always tends to separate the real audiophiles from those that simply dig really wild Electro in any of its forms – mentalEscape doesn’t just play around with texture & tone, but frequency here on “Sour Amnesia” as well. Again, for me, I’m lovin’ it – but I have no qualms about jamming a track like “Ventolin” by Aphex at max volume either – so there’s that to consider. “Sour Amnesia” doesn’t get anywhere near as grating in that respect, but for those of you familiar with that cut, you get what I mean – a lot of these sounds are beyond comprehension for some out there, as to how they can become music – and for others, like myself, we hear “Sour Amnesia” and wanna give mentalEscape the credit for being a modern-day Mozart when it comes to the craft of Electro-based sound. To me, this was easily one of the PH types of P-H-A-T tunes on this record, to be turned straight UP to the rafters where a track like this deserves to be for its colorful & audibly insatiable live-wire vibes. “Sour Amnesia” is ALMOST as brilliant & savagely addictive as “Pam And Lam” was earlier on in the set…or did I mean this the other way around? I’ll tell ya what – I’ll just take BOTH…one for each ear.
And for a BRIEF moment in time…say around like, less than fifteen seconds…it almost sounded like Mirza was gonna play a track straight-ahead as “Mood Stabilizer” began – but lest we forget, this is the Grunge Tape – and given that it’s only fifteen seconds or so down the road that the signature wildness & weirdness of mentalEscape roars back to life in a fully innovative display of malleable sound…I mean, really it don’t take all that long before we’re diving back into the realm of music this dude so happily creates. Sparing no quarter from the lefts to the rights, “Mood Stabilizer” might stabilize a mood, yes – but in terms of creating any kind of solid ground to stand on otherwise, this track makes the whole world around you feel like it’s warping & morphing while you listen to mentalEscape bend space & time. Listen to spots like around the 1:20 mark though, and how just that slightest bit more edge to the sound ends up pushing a track like “Mood Stabilizer” that much further when we listen – there’s a slight argument to a cut like this being a bit more one-note in style & design compared to some of the rest I suppose, but it’s kinda like being served up your favorite meal in a dozen different ways too, ain’t it? Plus in terms of cohesion, it fits snug into this lineup, and the vibrant sound never stops flowin’ – the way I see it, “Mood Stabilizer” still offers plenty of audio entertainment no one should complain about.
Listen to the complexities & clever choices being made in the beat as the final cut “Rigger” looks to close out the record on a lasting highlight. With its mysterious atmosphere and punishingly crunchy distorted melody on-point, mentalEscape puts on a serious clinic of how to cut up & slice’n’dice sound with chops that dole it out in awesome & epic proportions over the course of this final cut from Grunge Tape. An excellent choice to bring it home – “Rigger” is not only loaded with absolutely spectacular sound, but equally stocked with accessible hooks that explode through your speakers in remarkably enticing ways. From the extraordinary punch in the depth of the sound, to the display of chops no set of ears could possibly miss – mentalEscape makes sure to leave nothing left on the shelf as MIZ cleans out his closet for this final cut, adding all the bells & whistles to it in a full reminder of just how much this dude is truly capable of. It’s got attitude, it’s got spark, it’s got digital charisma baby, yeah! “Rigger” finishes Grunge Tape in a powerfully gripping final display of fireworks & talent for you to witness, with production perfectly on-point & a spellbinding mix that gets the maximum out of this track to its very last seconds.
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