The so called super-group MIEN released their debut self-titled LP on Rocket Recordings last week too much hype and anticipation.
The seeds for this collaboration were sown as long ago as 2004, when Rishi Dhir found himself in a chance encounter with Alex Maas whilst performing sitar with his former band on a bill at SXSW in Austin. Not long afterwards, he would also stumble across the Anglo-American band The Earlies, who he would similarly collaborate and share a stage with. This led to essentially the genesis of MIEN, via a shared love for one song – the classic sitar anthem by The Association, ‘Wantin’ Ain’t Gettin’. Upon finding that both he and The Earlies’ electronics guru and producer John Mark Lapham had a particular desire to cover this ditty, they began a slow process of putting together the version they’d always dreamt of. Whilst this would never come to fruition – the sparks that flew between them lit up a collaborative path clearly worth following.
Some years later, another piece of the puzzle came into place, when Dhir played bass with The Black Angels in 2012, and found the band sharing several bills with The Horrors, whose Skying album had been on heavy rotation for him. Thus he made the acquaintance of Tom Furse, and yet another pact was made to work together in the future. Soon, via yet another pass at the ill-starred Association cover, the four planets of the MIEN universe were to align.
They open with ‘Earth Moon’ with its dreamy sitar riff which gives way to ominous vocals and a throbbing bass line before moving into ‘Black Habit’, which started life as a long-standing demo of John Mark. Being originally based on a Beastie Boys sample, and was passed from the cutting room floor through the hands of Rishi, Alex and Tom to undergo an alchemical process and take its final form. The track features a soaring bass which plays with electronic noise and in essence channels the best of all four musicians into one neat little package. ‘(I’m Tired of) Western Shouting’ features a removed sound that seems eerily out of focus, allowing all the contrasting musical elements to fight for dominance yet allowing none to succeed. Whether intentional or not, the dissonant tone screams of dystopia.
‘You Dreamt’ utilises electronic noise and an arrangement of sound to channel a track taken from The Black Angels’ last LP, Death Song, there called ‘I Dreamt’. ‘Other’ is a great way to separate the albums two halves, with its haunting instrumental tones setting the tone for what is to come, blending into ‘Hocus Pocus’ with its moody countenance. ‘Ropes’ features a delicious sitar groove which playfully interjects Alex’s vocals and a menacing background beat. ‘Echolalia’ features a booming backdrop with warped, distorted notes reigning before ‘Odessey’ features lighter vocal notes which create a childlike innocence. Concluding ‘Earth Moon Reprise’ as the title suggests, brings the album full circle closing it with a mellower take on where we began.
Hype around a release can sometimes lead to disappointment, however this is certainly not the case here. MIEN utilises the talent of four musicians resulting in a project which emphasises the best bits of all four, creating an LP that is hauntingly beautiful and transcends a number of genres.