D/P/I MN.ROY

[Leaving; 2014]

Rating: 5/5

Styles: cap cai house, _________
Others: Tex Williams, 5 MASCARA MISTAKES WE ALL MAKE - AND HOW TO CORRECT THEM!, Press to Handstand Tutorial (THE most effective way) / 물구나무 밀기 강좌

In 2012, Alex Gray dropped HEAD TEAR OF THE DRUNKEN SUN, the first release under his Purple/Image moniker. The attention it received was modest, and it remains almost buried under the staggering volume of material that Gray has since produced. In spite of its reception, though, the album sits distinct amongst everything else he’s done, from his work with Sun Araw and Dreamcolour to HEAT WAVE, DEEP MAGIC, and in various collaborations. Somehow, HEAD TEAR defined an era in the way that YouTube rabbit holes, forgotten SoundCloud accounts, and digital trash were utilized to make new, exciting music. Gray developed this formula in all its manifestations on ESPRESSO DIGITAL, JEANETTE, and 08.DD.15 among others, and on his latest joint, MN.ROY, he evolves it through a series of anti-linear arrangements to achieve his most compelling set to date.

Upon being asked about organizational processes, Gray described his angle to TMT earlier in the year: “I’ll have eight or 10 or 15 micro-compositions based on a sample, and handle each of those things as an uncompressed piece to the overall puzzle.” This would allow for an almost infinite number of combinations — an indication of Gray’s compositional knack — but whereas samples have sometimes been recognizable on past material (from Roy Orbison on FRESH ROSES to R Kelly on I’m Fuckin You Tonight), they are utterly tangled and transformed here, giving rise to only one comprehensible line of dialogue and the occasional garbled phrase amongst a magnificent dream-induced collage of sound.

MN.ROY is Gray’s fourth release as D/P/I since December, and even though we are well into the second week of October, there is still every chance he will deliver again before the year is out. The fact that this album comes a matter of months after both 08.DD.15 and the INA LL LANGUA GES mixtape is remarkable in itself; each production is a voyage into the engulfing realm of some surreal digital sphere that Gray punctuates with life and cacophony. Regardless of their similarities, MN.ROY comes across as a more concise, albeit punishing album. The tracks are stripped-down and caustic, resonating in harmony with each other, even when considering the disjointed pulse that propels each track across its own insane orbit.

As with the flawless bombardment of HEAD TEAR and the unwavering mishmash of 2012’s Fukd In Tha Game, MN.ROY makes for an immediate and exemplary effort that consolidates the ideas running across each project. The stops and starts are as frequent as ever; the traces of house and hip-hop are apparent, but not overwhelming; the spoken-word fragments are neither oppressive nor drawn out. The whole experience feels like Gray has opted for the most absurd selection of samples, transitions, and overlays, and used them to bridge his compositional ideas so that they are more approachable — despite how distant and otherworldly their aesthetic.

“0011 . Ann_,” for instance, embodies a checkpoint between some sluggish Russian trap-hop that splits into fractured glitches and cadences before a remnant vowel loops back and curdles into the metallic snap of a hi-hat, like layers or dimensions of cyber surrealism being formed as a measure for generating each track’s pace. Gray has pulled this off before (see “02” on HEAD TEAR, where distortion waves and high-pitch glitches do battle behind an exhausted vocal tirade), but the results are different here; it’s a dazzling technique that has you perceiving even the slightest shifts in frequency as the underlying bass is drenched in static, giving the impression of disarray while maintaining a collected air.

These aspects are fascinating, and they are seemingly key to this otherwise irritating domain. Although Gray might be “joking with his audience,” he makes every effort to connect them here with his train of thought, no matter how berserk or fragmented. “004” is a fleshy bass ventricle, spouting into the album’s second section with rough cuts and thudding jolts and whirrs and clangs; even within such a brief lifespan, the track assumes its own ecosystem of clutter, which splits apart beautifully with smears of bass and crackle.

Then there are these short interjections, segments that last for less than one minute, interludes that gel the album together and solidify the cracks. “_DMM” is a stacked vocal loop that bleeds in and out of itself, while “Opportunity (100)” cranks open a shower of electric water, sprinkling from a busted pipe and onto a bed of shattered glass. “& Work” takes on the form of a detonator that houses one of the few understandable vocal samples: “Business is work. When you work from home… it’s work.” Play these tracks back separately and they make for their own micro-suites; precarious little set pieces that incite curiosity — further evidence that time is of absolutely no constraint to their creator while pace is of the utmost importance.

MN.ROY marks a defining statement from one of the most prolific and interesting musicians of our age. Linking this work back to a forgotten masterpiece may seem like the easy option, but clues to the techniques employed here were even alluded to on the cover of HEAD TEAR: a fusion of varying images crudely cut out and layered to give a sense of unity within chaos — a fucked up and rugged feeling of euphony that was also distilled and pumped through each of the album’s tracks. What we are left with on MN.ROY is not so much the aftermath of such artistic persuasions, but flickering sparks of technological failure, an experiment that burst into a blazing fire under inspection. The only remaining certainty is that there is more to come — there has to be, even after such a mesmerizing high.

Links: D/P/I - Leaving

Eureka!

Some releases are so incredible we just can’t help but exclaim EUREKA! While many of our picks here defy categorization and explore the constructed boundaries between ‘music’ and ‘noise,’ others complement, continue, or rupture traditions that provide new forms and ways of listening. Not all of our favorites will be listed here, but we think each EUREKA! album is worthy of careful consideration. This section is a work-in-progress, so expect its definition to be in perpetual flux.

Most Read