Infected Mushroom – Converting Vegetarians (2003 album) pt 1/2

Part 1 – Trance Side

 

Album links

Bandcamp: n/a

Soundcloud (Trance Side only): https://soundcloud.com/infectedmushroom/sets/converting-vegetarians-trance

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/3LbcBylGvC80f5OTeQaVuM?si=DRj2Ry1zQ1qfIxNXrcvF9A

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL718C82948CE653CE

 

Introduction: Ah yes, if I were a vegetarian, then the first thing that would entice me to join the meat-eating side would surely be a human brain skewered on a fish hook. All that knowledge ripe for consuming. Absolutely delicious. Sign me up!

 

Please ignore my odd tastes in… taste as I delve into my much more relevant slightly odd taste in music. Specifically, my taste in Infected Mushroom. The last three albums I’ve reviewed from them have been purely psytrance. This album changes that. Oh yes, the first half, referred to as Trance Side is definitely psytrance and alone would seem much alike the previous three albums (except ten songs instead of nine. How adventurous!)

 

The second half, however, is referred to as Other Side. I’d talk about it here, but I actually haven’t finished reviewing the Other Side yet and so I’m going to be posting this review as a two-parter. I’ll introduce the Other Side next week. This review is going to be long enough as it is.

 

Infected Mushroom – Albibeno (6.5): Alright, let’s dive right in to the first song of the trance side. We’re starting out with a quintessential psytrance song. It has the perfect 145 BPM tempo. It’s got that quick paced bassline that almost feels like a slow arp. All of the synths involve have an unusual trippy vibe to them. What more is there to ask for?

 

Well, when it comes to Infected Mushroom, there’s always a little extra icing on the cake. This track’s layer of icing is a bit thin, but it still has some unique elements that cause it to be held above any ordinary psytrance song. The most substantial of these is definitely the synth at the beginning that almost sounds like a technological arp. Usually when I say technological I end up saying “Oh gee this could be in a Mind.in.a.box song! That’s my favorite artist!” but eh this one is a bit different. And yet, I enjoy it on a near equal level. It has a good haunting vibe to it as it introduces the mysteries this album has to offer. The second appearance of this synth is my favorite moment of the song, specifically because of its incorporation of the bass rumbling in the background, which allows for some suspense to take over for a short while.

 

Other than that, I don’t really have much to say, there’s some other melodies in here that are decent, but they don’t really diverge increasingly much from Infected Mushroom’s established style (though there is the occasional melody that seems a little bit closer to the newer style). This song could definitely have used a bit more variety and I’d have given it a bit of a higher rating if it did, but I find that it still stands out well enough above your typical psytrance song.

 

Infected Mushroom – Hush Mail (6.25): I have no idea what that animal at the beginning of this song is doing but I’m afraid to ask. Whatever kind of diseased creature is making that noise, I’d like it to hush. It’s disturbing me deeply.

 

This animal does remain present throughout the song, but thankfully, the creature spends a significant amount of time buried in all of the other much more enjoyable elements of the song (plus it wasn’t all that bad to begin with, just a little odd). Such coverup elements include some quite industrial drums, your psytrance bassline (plus variations) and another more animalistic distorted instrument that doesn’t disturb quite me as deeply. Altogether, these instruments provide an enjoyable experience along with a few melodies that aren’t special enough to note. In fact, the non-noteworthiness of every thing in this song means that I shall be spending as little time reviewing this part as possible.

 

The animal gives one final growl at the end. Whatever, its issue or activity was, it seems to be over. As is this song.

 

Infected Mushrom – Apogiffa Night (6.75): Apogiffa Night sees itself as such a special song that it starts with its own cinematic introduction to announce its arrival. This just means it puts its best moment at the start of the song. Well, I guess that best moment does return a bit later and it’s nearly equally as good there (nearly because I feel it just works better as an introduction rather than simply being inserted in the middle of the song).

 

Is it special though? Well, compared to that cinematic intro, not excessively much. The intro does definitely improve my overall opinion on the song, but the rest of my experience is admittedly underwhelming. This is the problem when a song puts its best foot forward, but then lets a bunch of slightly above average feet walk on the rest of the song. There are some good moments here and there like the fantastic textural bassline that dominates the song for about half a minute around 5 minutes into the song. But that’s about all that strays from the general path. Most of the song simply trudges forward with decent unrisky psytrance. That’s fine. The duo will make plenty of risks later, and they shall surely pay off.

 

Infected Mushroom – Song Pong (7.75): Song Pong is the song that should be proud enough to warrant some hyped up in an intro, as this is the one that really starts this song on a trend of 7s and greater (with only one song interrupting this pattern near the end). But instead of pumping the song full of energy with a cinematic intro, Song Pong opts for a calmer more soothing vibe in its introduction. There are slight signs of the energy that’s to come, but the main focus of this introduction is the automated pad that fluctuates in pitch as the song progresses. But the most important part is the arp that appears midway through this introduction. This arp is a core element in the essence of Song Pong.

 

There’s a reason this song starts off so soft and smooth. And it’s because, as in actual pong, this song has a tendency to bounce back and forth. Specifically, it bounces back and forth between two moods. The first is calm and soothing providing a chance for the heart rate to relax a little, but this contrasts with the other mood of the song, which is a bit more energetic and upbeat. This beautiful arp serves as the first transition between the two vibes. From there on out, the song does focus mostly on the upbeat vibes of the song, but it does take several short breaks for its 8 minutes of existence, often focusing on introducing new instruments and melodies to the table. Most of them are admittedly not as calm as the introduction, but they still allow for much more variety than the previous songs.

 

Seeing as the upbeat sections take up the brunt of the song and are more or less self-explanatory, I’m going to take a specific look at the calmer portions and how they develop the song. What better way to go over the most significant instruments? The first return to calmness happens at 2:15 and gives a slight nod to where the song started while giving a chance for a new melody to see the spotlight. It had technically already been introduced not long before this calm, but it’s barely noticeable and only becomes significant after the calm that highlights it.

 

Our second break comes in at about 3:45 which introduces a brand-new melody. Yeah, it still has the same texture as the melody that was introduced last time, but the variation is significant enough to highlight. I think I do prefer the first one as the one feels as if it has too much space in between the short notes and it doesn’t quite flow as well with the rest of the track.

 

Heralded in by my favorite arp is the break that at about 5:50 that cuts out many of the melodies briefly, leaving just the kicks and bassline. Of course, the true focus here is the melody that’s introduced shortly after. While the second melody was a downgrade from the first, this one easily is the best in the song. It’s a nice happy medium between the first two melodies (Goldilocks would have said the first was too fast and the second was too slow).

 

And as many of the songs of the first half of this album, this one does a quick bookend with exclusive focus on the pad with the fluctuating pitch, bringing this song to a close.

 

Infected – Mushroom – Chaplin (7.25): Chaplin’s main strength is shown right at the forefront. And this time around, that’s okay. Unlike Apogiffa Night from earlier in the album and Sailing on The Sea of Mushrooms from way back off the Classical Mushroom album, this strong creepy melody is here to stay. Well, it’s not eternally present, but it does return at a couple of instances in the song and that’s plenty more than the other two songs I mentioned. There’s something about this melody that makes the blood in my veins chill ever so slightly each time it reintroduces itself. And yet, I also feel as if the melody is somewhat soothing. It’s as if the melody is putting me into restful mood but I don’t trust it because it’s planning on killing me in my subdued state. I know that’s not actually going to happen, but there’s an instinctual part of me that still fears this melody for no apparent reason.

 

Other than that, this is a good psytrance song that plays a little bit into Infected Mushroom’s more modern distorted vocal style of sound design, while still keeping to the old school psytrance roots that had dominated their discography in the five years preceding this album. Because of that, this song has a fresh groove that is very welcome to the Infected Mushroom discography. However, because my first impressions of Infected Mushroom happened in 2014 with Friends on Mushrooms Vol 3, I have this urge to compare these distorted vocals to the ones of Rise Up and Kipod, the songs that drew me into this discography in the first place. It’s an unfair comparison and I’ll do my best to say that these are pretty solid for their time considering what I’ve looked at so far in these reviews. It’s just that the sound design gets much better over the next decade and beyond. Actually, to be perfectly honest, their sound design undergoes a huge transformation 40 minutes from now, so maybe we should use that as a benchmark.

 

Infected – Mushroom – Echonomix (8.25): Echonomix is a great mix of sounds that have an echo to them. It’s also the study of money and how we use it and all sorts of things (I never studied economics so don’t blame me if I screwed that up).

 

While the latter of those descriptions of the song is a bit irrelevant and not actually very true, the part about this song being a mix of echoing sounds is incredibly true. Every single instrument and melody here has an odd tone to it, much of it due to echoes and phasers. Now, that isn’t entirely unusual for Infected Mushroom, but I feel like it sticks out more distinctly here than many of the other songs in their discography. Let’s do a quick look at each of the echoey instruments that overwhelm this song (which is most of them).

 

The very first moments of this song contain a harmony that has undergone multiple phasers as the echoes of subtle melody scatter in the background. As the song progresses this harmony undergoes multiple transformations, but the echoes are always there. It would be wrong if they weren’t. There’s also a melody introduced in a short break in the song at 1:45. It ends up becoming the highlighted melody for the rest of the song. A plethora of other echoing melodies are introduced at the midpoint of the song, though most of them are just subtle little accents for the song. Really, a lot of them are just notes that happen to have an echo attached to them (they only seem like a melody).

 

There are a few other melodies and arps and drumbeats that don’t echo, but they don’t echo so I’m going to ignore them. Though I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a subtle echo on them that I’m just not noticing. If so, nice job. I wish it was a bit more noticeable.

 

Infected Mushroom – Scorpion Frog (7.25): I’m not entirely sure what a Scorpion Frog is, but it sounds quite deadly. A slimy creature with a scorpion’s tail that can quickly hop towards me? No thanks.

 

Anyways, I painstakingly scoured through the last three albums to see what song these introductory strings are referencing. I could’ve sworn that one of the songs in the last few albums had a nearly identical melody and I thought it would be neat to show off such a little Easter egg. Instead I merely showed myself I was absolutely crazy and delusional. Bust a Move and Dracul have string melodies that sound mildly similar but it’s a strenuous connection at best. Ah well, regardless of where the melody does or doesn’t come from, it sure does have a very similar feeling to the strings that have been displayed throughout Infected Mushroom’s discography so far. Hopefully that was the intention.

 

The rest of this song is one of those journeys through sound. The mood changes from moment to moment and the variety keeps the mind interested and engaged. This is admittedly one of the lesser journeys through sound as the variety, while present, isn’t quite as dynamic as others. Plus, I hate to say this, but very few of these ideas are very interesting on their own. I never feel surprised whenever the song transitions to a new stage. I just think to myself “Oh that’s different than what we’ve been doing, ok.”

 

I’ll divide this song into 5 stages so I can quickly go over each change the song has.

  • Stage 1 is the strings. I already talked about the strings, they end at 1:25. They are strings and they’re great and remind me of older Infected Mushroom. Good vibes here.
  • After that we have stage 2, the glitched out bassline. This one’s ok. It goes through a couple of iterations and does have a decent bouncy groove to it, but it never really grabs my attention.
  • At about 3:20, we enter stage 3: the best stage. This one focuses on a calm, yet slightly off-putting vibe as the bassline rebuilds itself from the ground up. This melody is probably the second-best part of the song after the strings. It’s somewhat similar to the main melody in Chaplin, though it doesn’t quite reach the same heights of unsettling.
  • Stage 4 is the oddest of the bunch starting at 4:30. The psytrance bassline that has been building is traded for a phasing bass similar to the one at the beginning of Echnomix, but it’s not quite as good. There’s also a subtle melody that seems to be using some retro (or should I say R.E.T.R.O.) sound effects which rounds up this section nicely
  • Stage 5 takes up the last 2 minutes of the song, taking the phased bass from stage 4 and overlaying it with a bouncy bassline to provide a final build-up for the song (which works quite well might I add). Eventually, the strings from the beginning take over, wrapping up this song nicely.

 

Overall, this song is good, but it pales in comparison to what it could be.

 

Infected Mushroom – Deeply Disturbed (8.25): Deeply Disturbed is the only lyrical song on the trance side of this album. It is likely because of the lyrics that I remember it most clearly over the other nine (though I might have Scorpion Frog embedded in the depths of my memories somewhere what with that throwback mixup). The lyrics of Deeply Disturbed are… disturbing. If you’re looking for an uplifting feel-good song, then this isn’t really the place to look. In fact, you should probably tread all of my reviews with caution if positivity is what you want. I have a tendency to enjoy songs with darker themes (up to a point). Themes that might deeply disturb some. Themes that might make some deeply unhappy.

 

Actually, as dark and bleak as these lyrics are, they’re so out of context and so vague that I find it rather amusing more than anything. That’s probably not the right reaction to have and it probably reflects negatively on my sense of humor and internal psyche. But that’s it. That’s the entire song. He’d deeply disturbed and he’s deeply unhappy. What’s disturbing him? What’s sapping away his happiness? Is this man simply insane? We shall never know. But hey at least we get a good song in the meantime.

 

My memory of this song is also likely heightened by the overall music quality of this song. It’s certainly not the most complex song on the front half of the album, but sometimes it’s the simple things that prove to be the most enjoyable. My enjoyment of this song comes almost entirely from the guitar. Every single moment it’s there (which is basically any time the singer isn’t expressing his deep disturbance and unhappiness), it steals the show completely. Whether it be the ascending plucks played in the introduction of the song or the more melodic sections played shortly before each chorus, the guitar is truly the most enjoyable part of the song.

 

Of course, that doesn’t mean the guitar is the only good part of the song. The song simply wouldn’t be the same if the ambience didn’t give off that peaceful sense of dread at the beginning of the song. It wouldn’t be the same if the bassline didn’t have such a rolling groove to it. It wouldn’t be the same if said bassline didn’t become harsher in the chorus, while smoother elsewhere. There might not be a huge variety of instruments to work with in this song, but what’s there blends perfectly.

 

Infected Mushroom – Semi Nice (6.5): Semi Nice is the most playful song on the Trance Side of the album. It starts with an accordion of all things, which I find to be quite odd. It’s just not something I hear very often as my tastes usually don’t include the type of music an accordion would be involved in. But there is at least one exception. It’s this. This is the exception.

 

The song does stick nicely to that introductory playful mood to it. The sound design focuses mostly on the textured basslines. The typical psytrance bassline is there of course, but that’s not the one I care to talk about today. It’s there, being a consistent good as always. The bassline that stands out is the other bassline. For the first half of the song, it just gives a few notes here and there. Not too much in particular. But that playful vibe is definitely present when we reach the midpoint and the bass (now played at a bit of a higher pitch) starts to swing between notes. This funky middle section is probably the closest the song gets to matching the fun accordion intro. Shame that accordion wasn’t reintroduced

 

Instead, the last third song concentrates more on the less interesting elements of the song. There’s a new bassline playing exclusively lower notes with no experimentation whatsoever. And there’s a new simple melody with a few minor distortions, but that’s really just minimal experimentation if anything. Nothing wrong with this last third. Just nothing right with it either

 

Overall, this is a decent song. I’m still kind of in the middle when it comes to my opinion on it. The accordion definitely makes it stand out and I do think it would have been better off continuing to explorre the playful tone that the accordion introduced. Maybe reincorporating the accordion for later. It’s still a nice song, just not quite up to par for Infected Mushroom.

 

It’s Semi-nice.

 

Infected Mushroom – Yanko Pitch (7.75): Concluding the Trance Side, we have Yanko Pitch. With the exception of maybe Deeply Disturbed (which cheated by using the mantra of a madman for vocals), this is likely the creepiest trance song of the bunch. That also makes it one of the best trance songs of the bunch. When it comes to Infected Mushroom’s more psytrance side of their discography (I haven’t gone over anything non-psytrance yet, but I’ll definitely be doing so next week), the creepier songs are often the better ones. Probably because of all the emotions to be expressed through psytrance, fear is the easiest to convey. And a song that gives off a greater emotional reaction is a song that’s well-enjoyed (unless the reaction is utter disgust, then maybe don’t enjoy that one).

 

This song starts off right with the oddest creepiest ambience on the entire album. Deeply Disturbed had a great intro with the guitar that serves as one of the song’s core aspects, but this intro is incredibly trippy. The first twenty seconds are made completely of distorted synths that sound like the remaining echoes from a previous non-existent synth located in the negative area of this song’s duration. But now it sounds like something ominous is coming.

 

The rest of the song doesn’t quite match up with the creepy vibes the song starts with, but that’s mostly because the bar was set a little too high at that beginning. The rest of the song isn’t bad or disappointing. It’s just hard to live up to the expectations that intro sets. Not going to hold it against the song though because the song still maintains a relatively dark atmosphere and it does have some good unsettling melodies here and there. There’s a melody three quarters in that really stands out in the song, giving it some fresh upbeat variety as the general creepiness begins to go stale on its own.

 

That being said, it is admittedly a more simplistic song than the nine other trance songs on this album. The next thirteen songs, however, are a bit different…

 

Conclusion: We’re only halfway through this album due to its length, but it’s clear that the trend of Infected Mushroom’s quality continues to improve. Not all of the songs are winners, but they’re all consistently above 6, which is more than I can say for the past few albums. Plus, you get an extra song instead of the usual nine, so that’s a neat bonus. Of course, if I’d reviewed the full album, there’d be 13 more songs added into the mix and absolutely none of them would be trance, which I think would be an even better bonus. I’ll finish that up next week…

 

Final Score of Trance Side: (7.25)

Final Score of Other Side: (TBD)

Final Score of Full Album: (TBD)

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