Last time on Mind.in.a.box: An agent is tasked with following a hacker, hoping to eventually capture his target before the man teams up with a mysterious woman whose identity and purpose currently remain obscured from our knowledge. All the while, he contemplates his past, worrying about the memories that seem to have become hazy within his mind. And he worries that the future may be equally hazy, as change looms on the horizon. Conflict arises within his mind. Will he be able to embrace the change that seems inevitable? Will it crush him? Is there any possible way to avoid it? Can he prevent himself from falling into a world of chaos, trapped in a feeling of aloneness as the world grows ever more distant? A world in which he can no longer trust what is real?
For the hacker has escaped the agent’s clutches. He has found a way to the other side. He has entered an entirely different reality.
He has entered the Dreamweb.
And nothing will ever be the same again.
So the agent flees…
Mind.in.a.box – Tape Evidence (7.5): Hopefully, my recap isn’t too redundant, as Tape Evidence somewhat reviews past events as well. It’s not as clearly stated as the paragraph I typed up, but the recap definitely has a unique style that a paragraph can’t capture, even if it’s less thorough. Half of the albums in the Mind.in.a.box discography following Lost Alone start out with a reminder of where our agent currently finds himself on his mind-bending journey. There are a couple of exceptions (Revelations is too vague, R.E.T.R.O. isn’t canon, and Broken Legacies… well it’s best not to talk of Broken Legacies right now). I’m planning on giving my own little recap myself in future Mind.in.a.box reviews, giving a clearer outlook to where the story has left off. This song, for example, takes us to a room where the agent is currently staying. His sleep is suffering. His dreams haunt him. He hazily remembers the events of Lost Alone but his memory is proving hazier more and more as time goes on. There must be something wrong with his head. Natural deterioration? Or more? Who can he really trust?
And then he receives a mysterious package at the doorstep. The person who’d left it seems to have vanished without a trace, leaving only their evidence behind. The agent plays the tape, finding it filled with recordings of his calls to his employer as he lost the trace on the hacker that had disappeared that fateful evening…
Serving mostly as a recap of past events, this song doesn’t really add much new information to the story at hand. If anything, it only brings us more questions. What’s in the agent’s head? Why have his dreams begun to haunt him more and more? And who left the tape on his doorstep.
Well, regardless of the answers to these questions, I must admire the way this song integrates the world around our agent into the song. He doesn’t just tell narrate the events that happen to him. You can hear his emotional state in the music itself: the unsettling feeling as he describes his dreams, the thunder and pounding in his head as he cautiously approaches his door wondering who could possibly approach him at this hour. The mysterious arp and bassline that plays as he relistens to the tape depicting the events of the last album and questions begin to arise in his mind. The foley in the scene involving the tape (doorbell, door opening and closing, and inserting the tape into a player), also is a nice touch.
But most interestingly, I also enjoy the way that this song integrates past songs from Lost Alone within the song. There’s the line from Leave, “This is not what I wanted,” providing some continuity for the agent’s arc. And when the agent listens to the tape, you can here actual clips from Forever Gone depicting the agent’s panic as he loses the hacker. Interestingly, the song also features clips from Certainty, the next song on the album as a vocal sample during the first portion of the song and as the agent falls asleep with his headphones on. Speaking of the next song on the album…
Mind.in.a.box – Certainty (7.75): Certainty is a solid introduction into the more musical tracks of Mind.in.a.box. It’s certainly not the best song we’ve heard from him so far. Nor is it the best song on the album, but it doesn’t really have any weaknesses either. It has a slightly gritty technological vibe with a bassline made entirely of sixteenth notes and some simplistic melodies for texture. Most of all it has several different voices distorted to create reflect the conflict with in our protagonist’s mind
Certainty has left the agent. His world has begun to fall apart from the inside out. His questions have been burning within him for far too long and he has begun to wonder if they’ll ever be answered. He tries to find peace in his lack of knowledge, but the burning desire for his questions still remain. He no longer cares of anything else but certainty, but absolute certainty is unobtainable. And so, his world begins to shatter. He desperately clings to anything he can find in his life that he can hold trust in before his mind breaks from the pressure of the chaos. But if he can no longer trust his own mind, how can he trust anyone else?
I can somewhat relate. I’ve never had it quite as hard as this agent, but the unreachable desire for certainty has somewhat bothered me from time to time. In the past, I’ve felt like I need to figure out how exactly this world works, how to figure out my place in it and how to find that perfect state of peace. I’ve slowly begun to discover that I’m better off accepting that I’ll never fully know the answers and that it’s best if I take life as it comes to me instead of overwhelming myself for the perfect meaning of life. I’m not fully certain if perfection exists. Maybe that’s the point. I haven’t fully overcome this struggle. Sometimes I regress back into the plague of trying to find out exactly where I belong. But it’s never permanent. It’s important to remember that there will always be days in the future when one is certain enough in themselves that they don’t need to unravel the exact nature of the universe.
Then again, that might be most days for some people. I’ve brought this struggle upon myself.
Mind.in.a.box – Lament for Lost Dreams (9): This is the first song to directly confront the agent’s memory loss. It was hinted at in Falling from the last album, but that was a bit more vague. Lament for Lost Dreams goes a bit more into detail, expanding not only on the memory loss introduced in Falling but also of the dreams that seem to be plaguing the agent more and more as this album progresses (It is called Dreamweb after all). As much as the agent tries to recall the memories of his past, it remains hidden, obscuring the path he’d taken. It leaves a deep hole in his identity and he doesn’t quite feel like himself as he is no longer certain that he is his true self. But what I love most about this song is that he doesn’t let it destroy him. Oh, sure he definitely despairs for some time. Having a haunted past that leaves you uncertain of who you are isn’t exactly a pleasant experience. But he doesn’t let his past (or lack thereof) consume him. Instead he looks to the future, for there are choices, crossroads up ahead that he must face. And if he’s continually consumed by his past, he might not have the clarity of mind to make the right decision… if there is one…
This song definitely stands out in its verses. I know it’s not much but focusing on a solitary bassline (though it has drums and a synth in the second verse but they’re so subtle I didn’t even notice the first time) as the agent attempts to confront his past definitely allows some true focus on the torment and resignation in the agent’s mind. And the simplistic experience doubles up it’s purpose by allowing the arp filled chorus to stand out, both by giving a slight bit of variety to the music as well as solid driving drumbeat to demonstrate how the agent tackles the path ahead of him. He walks forward, leaving the effigy of who we was behind.
All that matters are the crossroads ahead.
Mind.in.a.box – Machine Run (9): Machine Run is certainly the most memorable track from the album and therefore I find it to be one of the best. Part of this comes from its unique feeling from the rest of the songs to the album. Instead of just devoting itself to a purely technological vibe. Machine Run goes ahead and brings some rock influence into the mix right at the beginning with a heavy hitting guitar intro. The rest of the song has a fantastic feeling to it too. The sheer variety that we see in this track is phenomenal. Their song continually flips back and forth between the grittier rock vibe (where the agent stares ahead at the routine to which he’s committed himself) and the slightly calmer arpeggio forced portions with cleaner vocals (focusing on his desire to escape the routine as he contemplates the futility of what this routine will do to him).
Yeah, I summarized those lyrics up pretty well while describing the two different vibes that this album gives us, but that’s no reason to stop there. The agent is beginning to take a step back and look at the situation he’s found himself in: working with a mysterious employer to find a mysterious man while his memories escape him entirely. He attempts to suffocate his nightmares by fully dedicating himself to his work, but what if, he suffocates his own individuality in the process. Is it truly better to ignore the thoughts that plague him, letting them fester inside as he distracts himself? To dampen his emotions as he chases unreachable peace?
Well, by my tone, it’s pretty clear that my opinion is no, but at this point in his life, it’s seems to be difficult for the agent to see what path he must choose. Yes, he could face his nightmares head on, regardless of how disturbing he might find the blurry images of his past, but he doesn’t seem to be at a point in his life where he feels he can face them. He’ll have to eventually. Without doing so he’ll never be able to redefine himself. Waiting any longer will extend his suffering, but for now he waits.
For now, he runs.
Mind.in.a.box – Loyalty (6.5): This song serves as a partner to You Will See from the last album, so it also runs the risk of going down the bad path of focusing on the bad aspects of love. And if you read last Ashbury Heights review, you can tell that this could be a big problem as I’m kind of sick of the concept. Of course, the relationship in Mind.in.a.box is much healthier than the ones depicted in Ashbury Heights’ debut. Then again, that’s not saying much.
This one doesn’t do quite as well as You Will See. Where You Will See was about overcoming the fallout of a relationship, Loyalty is about looking back on the relationship and putting all of the blame on the other party, which is an unhealthy way of moving on. Better than not moving on at all, but there’s no learning experience here. No strive for possible change. Instead, here’s focus on how the agent used to receive joy from the relationship, but now that his love has broken his heart, he has fallen lower than ever. The holes in his mind grow more painful every passing day.
Perhaps, I’m being too harsh. Giving the agent the benefit of the doubt perhaps his love had truly been problematic and he’s only just now realizing the flaws in their past relationship. The trust he had has evaporate and now he must move on. Credit where credit is due, there is a hint of determination in the second verse in which he determines that he won’t let the tragedy that has occurred destroy him. He will move on and look forward to overcoming his struggles. This is admirable, but it’s not done nearly as well as in You Will See.
Unfortunately, the music is rather bland too. There’s a simple bassline and arp, but they don’t do much of interest. The melody at the end is even more unremarkable. Probably the blandest melody I’ve heard in a while. There’s a portion with the guitar that’s pretty good, but it’s not enough to save the song (and pales in comparison to Machine Run). Overall, it might be over average as far as ratings go, but that’s pretty under average for the expectations I have of Mind.in.a.box
Mind.in.a.box – Sun & Storm (7.75): After the slower more plodding (Ignore the fact that the first line in this song has that very adjective in it) feel of Loyalty, the more upbeat tone of Sun & Storm is very well received. The technological drive I love from Mind.ina.box has returned. The bass and arp join forces in this one, forming on single entity. It works better than you’d think. Leaves some nice room for the ominous stabs as that occur every four beats as well as some more beautiful melodies that provide an interesting contrast to the rest of the song (which I find to be much harsher). The last third of every verse also features a piano which is absolutely lovely. And there’s also a synth that’s really just a highly distorted iteration of the chorus which I think is absolutely masterful.
As for the lyrics, Sun & Storm continues the development of the agent’s lost memories. Or more accurately, he abandons those memories and reaches forward into the future. A sequel to Lament of Lost Dreams if you will. Unfortunately for him, his struggles aren’t over as soon as he casts aside these tortuous dreams. The world still begins to collapse around him as he continues down the path for a future of freedom. His will begins to shatter as everything changes around him. Pleasure is now pain. Those he knew are spiteful to him for some reason. He can’t seem to escape his past as easily as he’d originally thought. Wherever he goes, it’s there lurking in the back of his mind. Whatever he does, it’s hiding in the shadows of his subconscious. His struggles haven’t fully disappeared. Perhaps they never will. They’ll always be there, but without working to overcome it, he will resign to suffering.
An interesting side note in the second verse as there appears to be some new information here regarding a person who’d originally came into the agent’s life providing a small sense of security of the chaos. But something went wrong. They fell to the darkness. The agent still stayed but suffered because of it.
It’s very well possible that the person in question could be the lost love… but I have the sneaking suspicion it’s someone else the agent knows…
Mind.in.a.box – Out of Time (8.25): This song isn’t too particularly musically interesting, or more accurately, the lyrics are so interesting I don’t want to spend much time with the music because there just isn’t enough to say in comparison. It’s got your general Mind.in.a.box vibe with a heavy focus on layers upon layers of arps organized in a fashion that gives off a technological environment. But that’s enough of that. This song has a story to tell.
The state of being out of time is quite a mind-bending concept. As simple as it sounds on the surface, time has always been a constant force in our lives. And if we were to slip out from under time’s grasp, then could we even comprehend what we’ve found beyond? With such a strange concept, this ends up being one of the more mysterious songs on the album. It took me a few listens before I made a breakthrough on what this song represents within the story, but it honestly should have been obvious from the get-go.
Out of Time is a sequel to Forever Gone.
When we last left off in Forever Gone, the agent had found our hacker sprawled out on the floor. He and his employer suspected the man had crossed to the other side, into The Dreamweb itself. The hacker has broken his mind down into code, allowing him to live in his impossible virtual world of the Dreamweb, claimed to be forever gone. Gone into a world that cannot be found.
And now, as the agent continues to ponder the events of that evening. As he questions where the hacker has gone and how the Dreamweb works, perhaps wishing to escape himself, we can still hear the voice of the hacker speaking through the Dreamweb. The Dreamweb is out of time. It’s where our hacker resides out of reach of the agent and his employer but it’s as much of a prison as an escape. One can’t help but notice that he’s lost alone in this new prison of his. The Dreamweb isn’t quite easy to navigate as the hacker had planned. He’d likely entered in haphazardly when he realized that he was being traced in the last album.
Of course, it’s also very well possible that the “he” in this song is the agent himself. That the hacker is speaking through the Dreamweb about an inevitably. Perhaps the agent himself will enter the Dreamweb in due time…
Mind.in.a.box – Dead End (9.25): our agent has been watching for this mysterious woman for a while now. She was last seen speaking to the hacker months ago and now the agent and his employer have found a lead that she’ll be at this club this evening. Who is the informant? We don’t know yet. Check back later. But that doesn’t matter, for as the agent continues observing the people entering the club, he begins to realize that they’re beyond the time that the informant said she’d be here.
So he goes in.
In a hectic fury, the agent pushes his way into the club, desperate to find this woman. Following the events of Forever Gone, she has become the only lead on what could have possibly happened to the hacker and she may just be the key to figuring out how the employer can find a way into the Dreamweb to apprehend the man. The agent keeps his mind clear and his focus straight. Nothing matters but the target. Nothing matters but capturing her and bringing her in. Nothing matters except the music…
A chaotic drumbeat begins to seep away at his mind. He tries to break away. He has to find her. She is the only thing that matters right now to the mission. She’s the only lead. But the music? A bassline roars into his mind. It overwhelms his thoughts. A constant distraction from his goal. His goal. His goal is right there. He can see his target in front of him right within his grasp. He approaches her but cannot reach her. He cannot reach past the music. The music? Arpeggiated progressions flow into his mind. Reality begins to distort around him. He begins to see visions of another place, another realm? An endless corridor reaching up into the sky. Rain falls down on his face despite the fact that he’s indoors. Where is she? The lead? There’s no one there. There’s nothing there. The music overwhelms our agent…
He blacks out.
Mind.in.a.box – The Dream (7.75): I don’t know if you’ve caught onto this by now, but dreams play a big role in this chapter of the Mind.in.a.box story (The title of the album is Dreamweb after all). After seeing the hacker escape into a dream of his own, the agent has found that his own dreams have begun to haunt him. Especially after the events of the last song. All of this comes to a head in this song, The Dream.
The song definitely has a great eerie vibe at the beginning. Only introducing slight elements. One simple melody echoing from the shadows. One ominous bassline creeping in from the shadows. And a simple three kicks with the occasional snare slowly echoing through the night providing a nice plodding feel to the song. Here, the agent reflects on his current state of mind. His dreams have haunted him to the point where he can no longer tell if the few memories that remain are real.
And then a voice invades his mind: “You fell asleep and now you’re mine… Just let go and embrace your dream…” The agent’s supposed mental deterioration isn’t natural. It’s the cause of someone who seems to have infected the man’s mind. Someone who claims to have taken control of the agent’s dreams. Someone who has been tormenting the agent for some time now, manipulating reality before his very eyes. The agent pleas in response to this voice, desperate for he has been broken by these dreams. He no longer knows who he is.
The song begins to develop from this point onwards, adding in some arps and quickening the drumbeat to new levels as the agent continues to converse with the voice in his head, but when the beat takes on a full four-on-the-floor pattern, the voice in the agent’s head takes over the song completely. The mysterious voice gloats on how much the agent’s world has been distorted. Anything he had before his mind had been invaded has since disappeared. He finds himself lost in a confusing world in which he can trust no one, not even his own mind. His past has been taken away from him and so it must be left behind.
The agent responds as the song gives more focus on the arps. As the voice says, the agent is surely lost. He may have found his place in the present for now, but something about this life he’s living feels wrong. Almost as if the missing past and the present don’t match up. The agent had wallowed in his pain in the past as he’d wandered the streets of life, searching for a place for his mind to call home. But now, when faced with the dream that has been residing in the back of his mind, he gives in to the voice. He embraces the dream instead of the reality before him.
But whose to say the dream isn’t reality as well?
Mind.in.a.box – Reflections (8.75): The story of the agent’s search for the hacker and his Dreamweb (along with the search for his own identity) has gotten quite complicated as of late. The agent’s thoughts and dreams have been scattered across this album in a seemingly orderly pattern, but in reality, we’ve been viewing this chapter in the Mind.in.a.box story nonchronologically. We may have started this chapter at Tape Evidence, but we should really perhaps it would be best to take a step back and observe the events that led up to Dead End and the aftermath of the hallucinations and dreams that overtook him that evening. We’ll need to go deeply into the story presented so far in this album in order to make sense of the narrative. Something that this song does quite well. But before we dive into the bigger picture, we’ll have to start at the beginning…
Following the disappearance of the hacker, it has taken nine months to finally find a lead on how he switched over into the Dreamweb. The woman who’d he’d spoken to that evening of his disappearance is the only possible lead that they have. It’s only when the agent’s employer (who from now on shall be referred to as White as he has finally been named) finds an informant that knows of the woman’s location that they’re able to finally make some headway.
Queue the events of Dead End. The agent sets up his position outside the club late evening on October 22. And after haphazardly entering the club, he experiences a song like no other. A song that digs into his brain making him envision another world before stealing his consciousness away from him. He awakens in a gutter early morning, disconnected from his employer and his mind succumbing to a state of eternal confusion. It is then that the dreams begin to truly infect his mind. All thanks to the music at the club.
Thankfully, despite being disconnected from his employer, he finds White shortly after awakening. Not only do we get a name reveal (technically a codename but it’s still significant) from the employer, he makes a physical appearance as well, an unusual event according to the agent. Further piquing my interest is the tape the agent is given. This slightly mirrors Tape Evidence, though it should be noted that this is a different tape. Unless of course one method of receiving the tape only occurred in his imagination. It’s not like his mind is the most trustworthy at the moment.
Well, if it is a different tape, then one must wonder what’s on this one. Furthermore, one must wonder exactly who this person in the club was, the informant from earlier perhaps (can he be trusted?). A thought crosses my mind though it might not have crossed the agent’s yet. Was the club perhaps a trap? Could the informant possibly be allied with the hacker and the agent’s female target? Was the music at the club specifically played in order for these people to get into the agent’s dreams? Of course, that goes under the assumption that the dreams are coming from the hacker’s allies. They could be very well be coming from another party… I believe it would likely have to be someone who knows a thing or two about the Dreamweb as the dreams are likely connected to the reality the hacker had escaped into.
As the dreams continue to plague him, the agent returns to his home, exhausted from the life changing events that had occurred last evening. He tries to fall asleep, but the music is still there, pulsing in the back of his mind. He can feel them in his head. Interestingly, at this point in the song, it isn’t the ominous pulsing bass from Dead End that is playing in his head, but the guitar from Machine Run perhaps this is the point in time that the agent introspects on the endless routine that he finds himself trapped in. Should he escape it or succumb to it? Impossible to tell at this point.
As the song ends the agent finally falls into a deep sleep. Perhaps when he wakes up, there will be a tape on his doorstep…
Mind.in.a.box – Between Worlds (7.5): Not really too much to say about this track musically, I haven’t perhaps doing the best at paying attention not the instrumental parts in this album, most because of how story-heavy it is. There’s simply not enough time to do so. This one does have a few good melodies here and there, but I don’t think any of it is significant enough to step away from talking about the narrative.
The agent’s exhaustion continues as we approach the end of this chapter with this penultimate song. Now that Reflections has caught us all up on the events of October 22-23, it’s time to explore further where this leaves the agent as he’s begun to accept his dream (see two tracks ago in The Dream), he’s found himself suspended between two worlds. The reality he’s lived in for his entire life, and the Dreamweb of the hacker’s own invention. And both worlds are changing constantly, shifting the agent’s perspective as he struggles to find a place that feels right despite the wholes in his memories (Has his mind been wiped?).
As the agent frantically searches his mind, trying to figure out what went wrong to lead his to this predicament, he finds himself suspended between two worlds. Will he have to choose his place between the two worlds to finally find peace?
It seems he is at a Crossroads…
Mind.in.a.box – Escape (7.75): While the dreams of our agent have remained central to the conflict of this chapter, there is another underlying conflict burning in the background. And as the last few songs have begun to wrap up the conflict with his haunting dreams (though permanent resolution is still distant), we can take a closer focus on another struggle the agent has been having. Shall he stay where he is, committed to the routine of his life working with White to seek out the hacker in the Dreamweb? Or shall he try to break free from the machine he’s been running for? Is it time to run from the machine itself?
The agent has a burning desire to reach out for a greater meaning. He’s felt lost in this city for far too long and still hasn’t found a place to rest his mind. A place where he can finally feel comfortable as the person he is. A place where he can find the person he is. He desires an escape from the rain that he’s envision falling from the sky ever since he’d heard that music in the club. The music that’s been plaguing his mind ever since. If only he could find a place where he can find peace…
But instead, he finds himself trapped in his routine. He merely follows White’s orders as they attempt to track the hacker and his Dreamweb. But as the chase drags on and becomes more and more complicated, more and more taxing, the agent has found himself sacrificing his own self, his own identity. Perhaps that is why he’s begun losing his memories. I’m not saying that his memories naturally disappeared due to this overtaxing endeavor. If the hacker can escape into an alternate reality such as the Dreamweb, then it’s not out of the question that one could pick and choose which memories to keep, and which ones to remove. What if the agent could choose to remove those memories? What if there was a way to manually extract any distracting thoughts of the past, allowing the agent to concentrate solely on his present mission? What memories could have haunted him to the point where he had to choose to remove them in order to focus on his mission?
Of course, who’s to say the agent was the one to make that choice…
To be continued…
Conclusion: I wasn’t able to go as in depth with the music in this album as I had in Lost Alone as the narrative really took up a large percentage of the review. Overall, I’d say this album was better than Lost Alone as far as music goes. Very few of the songs on Lost Alone stood out with their music (Walking is an exception). Here, however, several of the songs have a unique feeling to them as Mind.in.a.box hones his craft. I was able to sneak little bits and pieces in there as there are some points where the music is outstanding like in Machine Run, or absolutely integral to the story like in Dead End. But in the end, the narrative really overtook this review quickly as the agent chased the people involved with the Dreamweb as well as the truth in his own mind.
Speaking of the narrative, Dreamweb definitely kicks the storytelling up several notches above Lost Alone. The plot thickens greatly as the agent finds himself torn in several different directions. He’s torn between his past and his present as his lack of memory leaves him unsure of who he really is. He’s torn between different realities as he begins to have visions following his experience at the club in Dead End. He’s torn between the choice between sticking to the routine he knows, or breaking free from it, abandoning the little he knows in this world for the chance of finding peace.
He finds himself at a Crossroads. He must make a choice.
Final Score: (8/10)