Mono/Poly Golden Skies

[Brainfeeder; 2014]

Styles: instrumental hip-hop, synthesizers, video game music
Others: Flash Bang Grenada, Flying Lotus, Thundercat, Arca

Mono/Poly’s Golden Skies could be the soundtrack to some hallucinatory Ancient Egypt-themed VR simulation. You play a magician attempting to retrieve a prematurely lost soul from the underworld, but in order to get there, you have to find secret portals hidden in the immense neon cityscape of Neo-Luxor, where Anubis has stationed his jackal-headed guards armed with staves and flails, carrying giant ankhs like shields. The plot would be unnecessarily labyrinthine, branching from your original quest to take on cosmic significance, but it would be simple enough that each spell of the Egyptian Book of the Dead would feature bosses straight out of the statuary, including riddling sphinxes, the crocodile-headed god Sobek, and of course Set and his 72 followers. Puzzles galore. Unfaithful to the mythos, sure, but if you keep playing, you’ll eventually achieve godlike status and a final cutscene featuring a ride across the sky in Ra’s sun boat. Who needs reality when you’ve got fantasy?

All of which is to say that Golden Skies would fit nicely into a candy-coated wonderland of simple thrills and trippy visual stimuli. It’s rarely challenging, despite its occasionally unique sounds. It does, however, massage the brain’s serotonin release in a way that produces both euphoria and intensity. Despite its repetitiveness, the album never goes stale; it works on your reptile brain, not your grey matter. Its weightless, even perhaps meaningless at the level of language, but each echoing lead and spiraling sequence is full of content-less energy, just waiting for you to enjoy it.

Dickerson’s synth-sculpting rivals the headiest vibes of the experimental gear-heads and modular enthusiasts, but with more of an interest in quantized, melodic sequences. These melodies quickly become earworms, hooks in themselves. No tracks feel so crowded that a vocalist couldn’t have featured, but without an MC, the sculptural quality of each melody becomes more apparent, trading the silky-smooth Dr. Dre portamento-slide and the Timbaland full-auto triplets for something more aggressively textural — though never approaching the darkness of clipping.’s production or the madness of Death Grips’. Golden Skies’ sleek beat structures leave just enough room for the complexity of the synthesis to shine before the melody pulls away your attention.

Perhaps the most apparent link Golden Skies shares with game soundtracks is its ability to create environments. Dickerson’s use of similar tools for the lead lines throughout means that all of these environments share certain qualities, but each track invites the listener into a new space in the cityscape, each with its own mood and speed of motion. The golden hieroglyphic motif in each room feels like world-building, not mere re-use; the last thing Dickerson wants is to bore you.

It’s hard enough to get anyone’s attention (unless you’ve already got it) these days, so Mono/Poly wants to keep what he can score. Like a game, it’s all about the hours played. But like many games, Golden Skies won’t expand your mind so much as feed it sugar, keep it interested, open its ears. Its thrills certainly aren’t cheap, but they rarely affect you more than to excite your aural fixations. Still, Golden Skies might be that candy you sometimes pick up at the convenience store in spite of your better judgement or desire for “real food.” It might be empty calories engineered by a scientist to taste good, but fuck it, it does taste good, doesn’t it?

Links: Mono/Poly - Brainfeeder

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