Mr. Mitch Devout

[Planet Mu; 2017]

Styles: grime, joy, devotion
Others: Letta, Palmistry, Dark0, Arca

Voices are laced through Devout, the second full-length by London-based producer, Mr. Mitch. There is his own voice, low, melodic, kissed by faintest auto-tune. There are the voices of his collaborators — rappers (P Money) and singers (Denai Moore, Palmistry, Py). And there are the voices of his children, Milo and Oscar, who appear in sampled form on the album’s first song. Mitch weaves these voices together, animating his distinctive grime-y soundworlds with their liveliness, their grain. This is an album of breath and sigh, baby’s gibberish and parent’s confession. It’s also a complex and layered meditation on fatherhood and family, rich in emotion, textured and capacious; it’s a long exhale — stately, calm, joyful.

Sonically, Devout operates on a lighter plane to 2014’s Parallel Memories. Whereas that album felt dense and viscous, throwing the listener down a series of warped cul-de-sacs, this album is airy and bright. As a composer, Mitch is adept at counterposing textures, pitting the gnarled against the clean, serpentine square waves against gossamer-light pads. These churning textures are dissolved into enveloping sonic beds for Mitch’s tightly choreographed melodies — all neat synth patterns and curt vocal phrases — that cascade downward, forming sinuous layers, fading into the background, swelling into waves, cresting and shimmering. These songs step forward patiently from their hermetic worlds, carried along by gusts of air, exhaled from mouths, synths, and drums.

Underpinning it all is a striking emotional directness. On “Intro,” Mitch sets the scene for an album of candor, reflection, and devotion. Over plaintive, soothing keys, Mr. Mitch addresses his wife, asking, “Do you remember when we made our love?,” before adding, “And we’ve done it again, my love.” The album dwells in the intimacies of the domestic, magnifying its affects until they form all-encompassing worlds with love and fear and felicity, hewing honestly to the peaks and troughs of parenthood. There are moments of hesitation, like on the Denai Moore collaboration “Fate,” which sees her detailing the uncertainty attached to childbirth and the inherent unknowability of its effects over sprightly, restrained keys. There are also moments of disconnection, like on the Palmistry-collaboration, “VPN,” in which voices are flung across continents as lovers struggle to find each other, wi-fi connections precarious, synths winedrunk, melodies insistent, plosive. And then there is joy, in attachment, in vulnerability, in commitment. On “My Life,” Mitch’s beats catch in the throat as he gives himself over to his wife (“I’m devoted to you”). The song shivers with vulnerability, with the relief of dedicating oneself to another. “Our Love” recasts “Intro’s” lyrics, adding a sleekly detailed beat — hints of piano and flute, subtle cracks and hits — to tell a story of Mitch’s wishes for his son’s future: “This little precious thing/ Somebody teach me how to nurture the man in him.” The intimacy of these songs makes them feel illicit, as if we’ve been made privy to the sweet nothings of lovers as they drift off to sleep, their limbs entangled, their breathing warm and close.

On the final song, “Oscar,” named for his second child, Mitch gathers his family around him to welcome their new son. With the sway of a lullaby, Mitch coos, “I’m waiting/ For you/ She’s waiting/ We’re all waiting.” In this peaceful moment, we look to the horizon, glimpsing the triumphs and disappointments of a life to come, before returning to this, this space of tender care, as it slowly slides past us. We leave this new family to its contentment, to its future. They are turned inward, facing each other, their faces bright, sure, devout.

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