Introduction: Infected Mushroom. You’ve heard the name on this site before already, so I don’t need to give too much of an introduction. It seems they may be taking a jab of some sort at BP. I’m not sure what they’re expressed goal is. The album art doesn’t really answer any questions.
Anyways, regardless of Infected Mushroom’s intentions, this album begins as somewhat of a transition to what’s to come of the duo. It isn’t until the next album that everything truly changes, but there are some notable differences between this album and the last two. Let’s explore them, shall we?
Infected Mushroom – Never Ever Land (7.25): Infect me. There always to be some line in the opening song of these first few albums that make for a perfect introduction to an Infected Mushroom album. This one is somewhat of a combination of the last two interesting enough. Taking the “me” from “Release me” and “infect” from “Aliens infected us. It’s about time we infected them.” Am I stretching? Probably. Actually definitely. But I found it fun to talk about regardless. It’s still got Infect in there. You can’t deny that. There’s also the chanting of title of the song in final couple minutes of its existence, but I have less to say about that.
Vocal samples aside, this song definitely seems to be aiming for an unsettling vibe as many of the early tracks in the Infected Mushroom discography do. This time around, the song seems to have a smoother pace to it. There’s a lot more emphasis on ambiance than usual for much of the song. I’m particularly referencing the ever-present strings and the lead synth of the song with short melodies that simply provide a subtle unsettling texture to the song. The vibe of this ambiance seems to borrow a little bit from Disco Mushroom, which isn’t a bad thing, but it does feel like it’s not as good.
One other notable thing to mention that I’m having troubles fitting into the other paragraphs is how much I enjoy that guitar. I guess it gets a paragraph of its own then. I like the guitar. It’s got a nice groove to it. Ok, I guess that’s all I have to say about that.
Infected Mushroom – Unbalanced (7.25): Infected Mushroom shows a lot of growth in this album by not relying solely on the psytrance basslines and instead working on creating their own environment of sound unique to themselves. Yes, they’ve always been creative, but this song only has a few short sections with the psytrance bassline and it’s quite subtle. The rest of the song has Infected Mushroom feeling out the sound design as it breaks away from the mold with its own basslines. It’s here that the duo really begins to establish who they are.
Well, they start to find out who they are. As they’re really just exploring out into the unknown at this point, there is a mixture of what I enjoy and would rather go without. Pretty much anything that involves a bassline is good (I don’t think Infected Mushroom has ever been weak in the bassline department though so this is no surprise), be it the funky bassline in the introduction, or the rare use of psytrance bass (though the latter is subtle and has a good chord progression, so it helps the track stand out quite well from the rest their discography thus far).
There’s also some neat Foley in there with a creaky door, whining as it closes near the beginning of the song and a spinning coin settling itself on the top of a metal table as it begins to lose its balance. Or fi you want to make some kind of pun or play on words, you could say that the coin becomes unbalanced. The drum design is rather cool too in places. It’s always four on the floor as most trance songs are, but the snares when they appear sound almost rather industrial. There’s also some points where the drum completely disappears
And lastly, we have the lead synths. These are the parts I’m a bit more mixed on. There’s plenty of variety offered in this department, which means I have to deal with the fantastic (the bell melody and guitar solo is my favorite part of the song, but there’s a few synths here and there that are a bit too scratchy for my tastes). Some of the subtler instruments like the organs or ghostly ambiance also fit into the song quite well.
Infected Mushroom – Spaniard (5.75): I was beginning wonder if this album was going to be consistently 7.25s, but there appears to be a slight dip in quality right here. The Spaniard, does very little to stand out on its own. It still relishes in the slightly unsettling vibe that’s already been established in this album, but it’s not really doing anything new with it. Yes, there’s plenty of haunted synths providing the ambiance for this track and I do appreciate those, but the only noteworthy melody I can find is the one that appears a bit over 5 minutes into the song. Everything else other than the outro (with the creepy ambiance/decent bassline combo and the short vocal section of little substance) isn’t unique to the rest of the first age of Infected Mushroom. And even then, I don’t find the outro to be exceptional.
Infected Mushroom – B.P. Empire (6): It’s a good viewpoint to see the world as a dream. When you have something like a nightmare, you will wake up and tell yourself it was only a dream. This quote is apparently from some movie about samurais that I guess Duvdev and Erez enjoy. It claims to have a good viewpoint on looking at the world as a dream. Honestly, I’m not certain if it truly is a good viewpoint. Really just feels like an excuse to cut off your emotional attachment to the world around you. And while that may work well for nightmares, I can’t really get behind this way of living. Too emotionless, too detached, too apathetic to the issues that we face in our lives. If we just see it as a dream, we’ll never face them at all.
Anyways, this titular track goes as minimalistic as it can for Infected Mushroom. Start with a creepy quote, add in a drumbeat and then put a nice Infected bassline in there. For the most part, that’s all this song does. The bassline admittedly does transform throughout the song so there’s a bit of variety, but there’s nothing to be said about melody. It’s all about bassline this time around.
Unfortunately, the bassline variety does have some issues. While I will say that all of the basslines are good, that does actually prove to be a problem. When none of the basslines are bad, very few of them stand out either and even the variety becomes somewhat monotonous. With no other elements to change along with the bassline to complement its strengths, each iteration seems to overstay it’s welcome. I find myself surprised to say this, but even with variety, most of this song is tedious and monotonous.
There’s only one bassline that stuck out to me around 5 and a half minutes into the song. Something about it has a slightly stronger groove than the rest. But there’s seven other minutes of lesser content surrounding it. For some reason, they decided this bassline wouldn’t last nearly as long as some of the others, before being overtaken. If it were any bassline, I wouldn’t complain, but when it’s the best bassline in the song that gets snubbed, I can’t help but feel that the song could’ve been a bit better had it been given the chance to shine.
Infected Mushroom – Funchameleon (8): at first, from the title, I thought it was depicting a chameleon that was fun, but after listening to the song, it’s quite clear that this is a chameleon that’s funky. Just listen to those basslines. B.P. Empire had at least tenfold the variety of basslines in it’s 7 minutes and yet not a single one of them measures up to the funky groove of the chameleon. My favorite bassline by far is the one introduced at the 2.5-minute mark of the song. Definitely one of the funkiest sections of what I’d consider to be the first era of Infected Mushroom (The Gathering thru Converting Vegetarians). I’d have to brush up on the next album to be certain, but we’ll get to that one soon enough anyway.
Now, this one funky bassline doesn’t detract from all the other basslines in this song. Nor does it detract from any other elements this song has to offer. It certainly is the standout part, but I don’t find myself missing it when all of the other basslines and melodies are at work as those bits are interesting enough to occupy my interest in the meantime. Even before that perfect funk is introduced, we have a smooth growl (if that makes any sense). And after the funky beats temporarily cease, we have plenty of arps and melodies that have their own strong points, in particular the melody that almost sounds like a slow arp at the 5-minute mark. There’s even a second strong bassline at that point in the song that nearly gives the Funchameleons’s main funk a run for its money. It’s not really a contest, but it’s remarkable that anything can come close.
Infected Mushroom – Tasty Mushroom (7.5): Do you want to have a tasty mushroom? That is the beckoning of the deep voice that offers a delicious snack midway through the song. And I’m not sure how to answer the question. If by Tasty Mushroom, the dude means he wants to know if I want to listen to this, then I’ll do it, it’s a good song. If he means he wants to offer me some mushrooms to make a soup or put on a pizza, I’m into that. If he’s asking me if I want to have a power-up from some Mario game, I might question whether or not he means in-game or if he somehow made the shape-shifting fungus a reality. If the former, then I guess I’ll take it. If the latter, I may want to know how much it’s been tested before I actually partake in eating it as long as it’s not purple. If he’s offering drugged shrooms (or infected mushrooms I guess), then I may have to decline. I’m not really into drugs. Music is my high. Then again, I seem to be perfectly fine with consuming scientifically tested Mario power-ups so maybe I’ll need to reconsider some of my hypothetical life choices.
Like I said, this is a good song. It perhaps is in the middle ground of this album, but this album’s middle ground is good, so it’s not really an issue. My only problem is that the funky vibe at the slight funky party vibe at the beginning feels a bit out of place as very little of the rest of the album incorporates that vibe. The trumpets return for a short reprise midway through the song, but if the bassline returns with it, it simply fades into the background as the stronger psytrance basslines overwhelm it. Still, it is a nice throwback. It would be neat if the song involved it more.
The other part of the song that stands out to me is the ambiance used at a few different points in the song. For the first, half any use of ambiance is subtle, but while the Tasty Mushroom is offered, everything fades away except for a distant choir (actually this reminds me of Disco Mushroom in a lot of ways, funny they have such similar names. Disco did it better though). There’s also a bit more of that tasty ambiance at the end as the song fades away.
Infected Mushroom – Noise Maker (6.75): Go play your music. Play it so loud that nobody can sleep. Noisemaker. Heh, that’s exactly what I’m doing right now. Blasting Infected Mushroom in my room so loud that no one can sleep. Except it’s noon. And no one is home. But no one is sleeping either so it’s totally relevant.
Listening to the beginning of this song, I would normally expect a song called Noise Maker to be… well… noisier. It’s rather calm for a song about blasting music, but then again, this is one of Infected Mushroom’s calmer albums. Though if you really think about it, all music makes noise regardless of the volume. It’s just that even when full blasting this tune, the song remains to be somehow soothing and relaxing. The culprit of this relaxation is definitely the pads introduced at the very beginning of the song. They sweep away my soul into a state of soothing. At least that’s how it goes for the intro of the song.
As the song progresses past that vocal sample midway through the song, there are some louder basslines introduced to my ears that prevent the relaxation from fully seeping into my body and soul, but they don’t feel extra noisy compared to anything else done on this album (and this album is rather relaxing for Infected Mushroom anyway). Plus, in the middle and end of the song, the soothing calmness returns. Perhaps it’s a bit wavier and distorted than it was at first, but there’s still sleep. Despite, the noise maker, there’s still sleep…
Infected Mushroom – P.G.M. (6.25): Seeing as this song, has very few remarkable moments in it, I’ll be brief. There are only three things about this song that stand out. There’s the short cries of a choir interspersed throughout the song, which for some reason is the most memorable part of the song as it’s barely unique. The second thing I can enjoy in this song are the simple descending melody that appears throughout the song, often accompanying the vocals. Not incredibly unique, but it does its job well enough. I think the most enjoyable 20 seconds of the song is the guitar melody that appears midway through. It gives the song a little bit of flavor, but it’s a flavor given to several Infected Mushroom songs of this era and most (if not all) of those songs did a better job of using the guitar melody within the song. P.G.M. only uses this very simplistic melody 5 times (and four of those times are consecutive. It doesn’t really contribute to anything beyond the 3-minute mark of the song). There’s a couple build-ups that are somewhat decent, but if this song disappeared, I wouldn’t miss it.
Infected Mushroom – Dancing with Kadafi (8.5): When I reviewed Classical Mushroom about a month ago, we ended with a long song known as The Missed Symphony. It was not worth its length. Here, we have a song of nearly the same length as Missed Symphony, but this one is actually worth the time it takes to listen to it. I have mentioned at least a couple times in the past that I quite enjoy it when a song constantly introduces new variety to it as it develops (often over a long period of time). I call such songs journeys through sound. This song in particular was one of the very first songs I’d heard that fits into this category. And because of this, I consider it to be the epitomal standard for what a journey of sound should be.
Summarizing a journey such as this one is a rather tricky task to tackle. It would be so easy to do a play by play recap of every single different change in mood and melody this song goes through, but I fear that would be tedious. I will say this though; the song never goes a full minute without some noticeable change in its mood. Every single moment of this song is good on its own but it’s the way these varying moments flow flawlessly together that makes this song work. From melodies that almost sound as if they’re asking a wordless question to a beautiful duet of piano and strings to a funky jazz vibe to a satisfying victorious melody that answers the question we started with
Part of me wants to go even further in depth with this masterpiece but I fear that doing so might contaminate the beauty of the track. Sometimes, it’s best not to overanalyze every single detail, but instead to simply let the experience wash over you.
Conclusion: I feel like this album was tricky to review at times. While, The Gathering and Classical Mushrooms had songs that were quite clear of what I’d rate them, I found many songs in this album to be a bit more ambiguous. Perhaps it was because the entire vibe of the album had progressed to a more mysterious tone ripe with uncertainty. It’s definitely one of the softer albums in their discography. Yes, everything still has a trance BPM, but there are several points where the drums are subtler or even non-existent.
It’s noteworthy that this album has very few vocal samples in it in comparison to the last two. They begin weening off those vocal samples in this album, which I feel is an important step in their musical development (nothing wrong with samples from movies, but the tradeoff is quite worth their absence).
It’s also worth mentioning that the way this album is mixed allows each song to flow seamlessly into the next (It’s like a journey through sound… but 70 minutes long!). I quite enjoy albums that do this, as it encourages listening to the entire album in full, much in the same manner I described in that final sentence of my thoughts on Dancing with Kadafi. Let the music wash over you as you relax your mind and soul…
Overall, I say that this album is consistent with the trends of their discography so far. Giving it a good rating similar to Classical Mushroom. It serves as a nice transition between the two albums we’ve heard just far as well as the next album, which I’ll review some time in the future. Though beware, that album is both longer and more drastic in change of tone than this one.
Final Score: (7/10)