Last time on Mind.in.a.box: White has tasked an agent with a mission to track down a hacker, but unfortunately, his target has escaped into an alternate reality, the Dreamweb. Thankfully, White had found a lead that the two of them can use to try and figure out how to enter the Dreamweb and apprehend the hacker that has been eluding them for several months now. The lead? A woman who’d spoken to the hacker the night of the disappearance. The agent finds her at a club, but something strange occurs. The music within the club invades him mind, giving him visions of another world. His dreams have been infected by an unknown source. The gap in his memories remains unfilled and the agent begins to suspect that his mind may have been wiped at some point in time. The agent prepares to take the next step in his journey, but the question is which step will he take?
He finds himself at a Crossroads…
Mind.in.a.box – Introspection (7.75): This introduction isn’t a recap. It’s an information overload. The entire perspective of the agent’s world has been turned on its head. He awakes under the care of two people, a man and a woman, The Friend and Night (Just guess who these two are. I dare you). He is greeted with a smile as he floats in an enclosed pool of water. A weightless environment in which the Sleepwalkers attempt to save his identity from his employer’s mindwipe. White isn’t who he seems.
No one is as they seem.
Honestly, all of the introductory songs to the Mind.in.a.box albums are great, but this one is one of the most enjoyable to listen to. I can’t fully decide which is better, this or Tape Evidence. Tape Evidence did a better job at being immersive by using foley along with the agent’s narrative. The music in this song however, is an immediate step up from much of the music in the last album. A perfect balance between the energetic basslines overlaid over high-paced syncopated drumbeats and the melodies that match the mysteries that are to come.
As of right now, I prefer this over Tape Evidence as I enjoy the music a lot more this time around and I feel like there’s a great overload of new information introduced here. And while this does answer the question of how the agent’s memories had begun to fade from his mind, several more questions take its place. Who are the Sleepwalkers? Who exactly are Night and the Friend? How did they get a hold of the agent and where is this empty flat they’ve taken him to? More importantly, where was Black when he’s woken up underwater? And what happened when the glass shattered?
The world is changing. And it will never be the same again.
Mind.in.a.box – Amnesia (8.25): I mentioned this in a previous Daily Hat Track, but Amnesia is quite a special song to me in the Mind.in.a.box discography. Any firsts are incredibly valuable in my opinion. And as my first song from my current favorite artist at the moment, this one definitely has a nostalgic bias.
As far as the music goes, this song doesn’t do any thing particularly special. It plays a little bit with the whole technological Mind.in.a.box vibe but most of the song is just the same bassline and four on four drumbeat. There’s a bit of variation with some subtle melodies here and there, but as far as the verses go, that’s about all the song has.
The chorus on the other hand, while a bit more minimalistic at first, does stand out a bit from the rest of the song. In its first iteration, it begins with a solo bassline and slowly adds new elements over time, a more complex drumbeat and a building melody that ebbs in and out as the chorus continues, transforming in tone so it flows connectedly into the original vibe from the verses. In the second iteration, it starts off with an arp instead of the bassline and the drumbeat disappears for the second half of the chorus as the song winds down towards its conclusion.
However, while lesser musically than surrounding songs, Amnesia still showcases the agent’s struggles well. As I’ve been mentioning for weeks now, the agent has been having a little bit of trouble recalling his memories. This has become especially important seeing as we’ve recently discovered the source of his amnesia, White’s mindwipe. This song does share some thematic tones with lament for Lost Dreams from the last album as the agent looks upon himself, knowing that his past has been broken and that he will never be the same again because of it. But he doesn’t lament for long. He instead looks ahead to tackle the future instead of dwelling in the past. In fact, this song does even less lamenting on the past. The agent has become more accepting of the fact that his past has gone. In fact, he seems intent on leaving it behind, making peace in the present so he can look to the future.
Mind.in.a.box – Into the Night (8.25): Ready for another information dump? Because our agent has stumbled his way back into the club he’d visited back in Dead End from the previous album. And boy does he have a lot of questions (he is having troubles remembering after all. We did just have a whole song about that). Unfortunately, as usual, we only get the agent’s side of the conversation. So really, this is just reiterating questions we’ve already had. On occasion, the agent gives a vague reaction to the questions, which allows some of information the agent has collected to slip through the cracks. But in usual Mind.in.a.box fashion, we just have more questions. Oh sure, they’ll all be answered eventually, but there’s always another secret to taunt us with.
But before I dive in too deeply into Mind.in.a.box lore, let’s talk a brief bit about the music. Into the Night bounces back between two vibes, one for the experience the agent has scoring for information about his recent experience, trying to find a path to take in the future as his direction has been lost since his severance with White. The other playing as the agent repeats his mantra depicting his emotional emptiness. For the former, the music actually takes a backseat, allowing the conversations to be displayed with very little distraction as the music drives forward subtly in the background. But for the latter, there’s plenty more Mind.in.a.box arps taking over the song. Some simple melodies, projecting a mysterious vibe as the mantra repeats.
There was nothing left to feel as the agent fell into the night. Cut off from his past, he felt cold and empty uncertain of where to begin with his new life. He’d originally resigned to the pain he was used to under White’s careful watch but now that he had been freed by the Sleepwalkers (Who are they?), he’s been healed, reborn into a new person, but a person unsure of where to go in his life.
So, he searches for answers. He revisits the club where he’d nearly caught Night before being overcome with visions of the Dreamweb, the reality invented by The Friend. The agent still isn’t quite sure what happened that night. He peers around the club searching for answers. He recognizes a man he’d seen before, though he’s unsure of the identity. He vaguely recalls a place known as the Pi, but he remembers nothing of it. He tries to figure out what band was playing that night when he’d nearly lost his mind, but he can’t recognize any of them. He is, however, introduced to the Sleepwalkers (previously mentioned on Introspection). He wonders who (or perhaps what) they are.
But the most mysterious blank in the agent’s mind is his name. He doesn’t know his name. And so he creates a new one. A new identity for his reborn self. To oppose his previous employer, the agent becomes his opposite.
His name is Black.
Mind.in.a.box – Identity (9.25): Identity is an enigma sometimes. Perhaps I’m just prone to overthink everything, but I find it nearly impossible to truly lock on to solid identity that defines who I am. Can I truly be defined by a simple list of characteristics? Is there really a core to myself that I can latch onto? That I can rely one and look to as a constant in my life? Am I being all too existential for my own good? Probably yes to that last one. But Black seems to have the same problem, the same desire to define himself. Admittedly, his loss of identity is a bit worse, as he can’t even remember his true name. I at least know that much.
Following the last two songs, Identity definitely has a more energetic powerful feel to it. Introspection comes close with its intense introduction throwing us directly into the story with Black’s interaction with Night and The Friend, but Identity has many more melodies and a bit more variation. Part of this is thanks to the vocals which span across several different moods. The calmer introspective verses, the more emotionally intense chorus (the last fourth reaching a higher octave in Black’s desire for identity), the monotone mantra following the chorus (I want to know who I am. The rest of the music is stellar too, great drum patterns and arps easing in and out with a nice variety of melodies (bassy or otherwise. Some good moments of ambience too, which can surprisingly be heard even with all the energy of the rest of the song that could distract from the calmer strings. But even the ambience Is prominent. Every single element of this song provides a great mixture of sounds to fill the ears, but the vocals are definitely the emotional heart of the song as they easily steal the spotlight from everything else.
But what good are vocals without fantastic lyrics to go along with them? Thankfully, this song has just that. Like I’d expressed at the beginning of this portion on Identity, this song focuses a lot on Black’s desire to find his identity. To figure out who he is and where he belongs in this world. His life had been empty and monotone before as he submitted to his fate as an agent of White’s. But now that he’s free, now that he can sever his ties, he spends this song striving to make something of himself. To figure out a new purpose for his new life. He will define his life as his own.
Mind.in.a.box – Lucid Dreams 1 (7.25): Why was I so afraid? Night was not afraid.
As a twenty second intermission, I’m not going to have much to say on this song. It’s twenty seconds of ambience and two sentences. Such short intermissions are a rarity in the Mind.in.a.box discography. There’s only two such short intermissions in this album (the second aptly named Lucid Dreams 2) as well as a couple on Broken Legacies. Each one has to do with Black’s fear as he faces the road ahead. He must overcome it if he’s to join Night and The Friend on the journey through the Dreamweb. On his journey to find his purpose. But for now, his fear still has a hold on him. Let’s talk about that fear, shall we?
Mind.in.a.box – Fear (8.25): Fittingly, the song called Fear begins in a rather creepy manner, with an ominous bassy ambience setting the mood so that the eerie melody and some rough distorted vocals can ease their way into the song. The verses in the song is where this slightly ominous underlying feel is most present. The tone of the vocals contributes the most to this feeling of dread. In the verses, the computerized vocals take on the lowest octave within its comfortable range (not that such distorted vocals couldn’t go any lower, but it wouldn’t be that intelligible if you continued down the path towards contrabass. Thankfully, the chorus takes the vocals an octave or so higher instead. And since an uplifting arp is also more prominent in these choruses, the emotions portrayed are a bit calmer, a bit less unsettling. This works quite well, as the entire purpose of the song is not about succumbing to fear but about how Black must overcome his fear.
Fear is an interesting emotion. Even though, I normally wouldn’t describe myself as a fearful person, it truly is fear that drives me in some ways. Mostly my fear of the expansive universe that will swallow up my mortal identity, but that really only bothers me on bad days. But even on the good days, that fear is still there, crouching in the corner of my soul, simultaneously fueling my productivity while also waiting for a chance to latch on to me, paralyzing me whenever I reach the lower points in my life. A huge theme of Mind.in.a.box is dealing with the darker more existential parts of the mind and finding a balance between confronting them without being overtaken by them. And what makes this one work so well is how it accepts that fear is sometimes a fact of life, while simultaneously sending out a message of overcoming it. Everyone’s afraid, but that’s no excuse.
Like displayed in that last intermission, fear has been haunting Black for a long while now. Across, all of the albums so far, Black has tormented himself trying to pick apart at the mysteries of his mind. And the more he discovers, the less he truly knows. The questions that had begun arising from the very beginning are increasingly prominent in his life as he transitions away from White’s control and has to face a band new future in which everything has changed. A change which he fears.
Mind.in.a.box – Stalkers (8.25): Stalkers is a song depicting a new group of within the Mind.in.a.box universe, the Sleepwalkers. They repeat a mantra in unison as they serve some unknown controller (I have my theories) and all the while, a solitary voice tries to escape their chase. The music accompanying this struggle is quite fitting to the themes of these Stalkers. Much of the song has a more monotone feel to it, with repetitive arps with small bits of variation driving the song forward. It isn’t until the last act of the song, that there are significant changes with a melody that breaks from the constant and slight change in tone of the arps that we begin to break away from the uniformity of the Stalkers. But who are these Stalkers I’ve been speaking of?
My initial impression was that this song was about the Sleepwalkers, but just because the name starts with an “S” and ends in an “Alkers” doesn’t necessarily mean the two groups are related. Quite the opposite actually. Looking at the details we can glean about this new group from the lyrics, the Stalkers are a group of people who have a collective mind. A solitary consciousness. And seeing as Night and the Friend, the suspected Sleepwalkers, have saved Black’s mind, it doesn’t quite add up to the mental slavery depicted in this song. Black, now freed from White’s mindwipe, has the chance to live a new life of his own, not one in which he’d become slave to the other side. No, the stalkers are not with the people who were running from Black as he and White chased them in search of the Dreamweb.
Or perhaps they weren’t just chasing the Sleepwalkers
Perhaps they were stalking them.
I could be wrong about the true identity of the controller of the Stalkers, but I think one thing that’s notable about this theory is the outro of the song. A solitary voice, Black’s voice, calls out repeating the Stalker mantra. It’s possible that this song serves as a Flashback to how Black begun serving White, but things have definitely changed since then. He’s no longer a component of the machine of White’s creation and now he can see the strings that has held him previously. Black is still in danger of the mindwipe. He must fight the machine in order to truly free himself, but his journey to freedom has only just begun.
Mind.in.a.box – What Used To Be (8.5): At first glance, What Used to Be seems to take on the exact same themes as Lament for Lost Dreams and Amnesia, but there’s a significant difference between those previous tracks and the track what we’re looking at today. The first two are about Black’s struggle to let go of the memories that have faded from his mind. This one however, focus on the memories he does remember. The memories he has of serving under White (perhaps as a Stalker). Letting go of the holes in one’s mind is one thing. Letting go of memories that continue to haunt one’s self is another story altogether.
I’ve chosen the longer version to review for this review. While searching for a Youtube playlist, I noticed that a lot of the less official ones use a Short Storm remix that’s only 4 minutes long rather than the full 7. This is a completely different version of the song though. I wouldn’t even consider to to be an oddly named radio edit as the whole vibe of the song is transformed into something a bit less interesting. I prefer the seven-minute version anyways. Longer is nearly always better in my book. Especially when the longer version includes a greater variety of the technological arps and basslines I know from Mind.in.a.box. I’m not sure if there’s anything that especially stands out in this song. It really meshes quite well with the rest of the album though so I’m glad this is the version included rather than the Short Storm version (It may sound like I hate Short Storm but it’s honestly not all that bad. It just doesn’t really sound like the technological perfection I’m used to from Mind.in.a.box)
Black must move on from what used to be. From the life he had while still employed by White. Now free from White’s control, Black reconsiders the Crossroads he’d faced in the past. The Crossroads he’d mindlessly followed White down. He looks at the paths he’s taken and regrets where he’s ended up. But like in Amnesia and Lament for Lost Dreams, Black must look towards the present and the future, while he can learn to the past, obsessively dwelling over his mistakes (as I am admittedly all too guilty of) will do him no good.
The Crossroads ahead are what matters.
Mind.in.a.box – The Place (7.25): The Place is definitely the most relaxing song on the album. I’m not certain if it tops that particular list for the entire discography. I believe the next canonical album, Revelations, has a fair amount of songs that fit a calmer mood as well. But as far as the first half of the Mind.in.a.box discography goes (Yes, we’re halfway through already. Though I might get distracted by a certain side project in a bit so I’m not certain when we’ll get to the next chapter) this one is the most relaxing.
The beauty begins immediately with the piano melody which serves as the bookends for this particular song. It’s quite a refreshing diversion from the typically hyper-technological vibe that the rest of the album has. While I personally prefer the more upbeat songs, the beautiful piano does intrigue me and it builds quite well to the main vocal section of the song as it distorts back into a more technological sound while accompanied by some synthesized strings. Overall, it makes for a powerful introduction to this slower more reflective song.
However, when the song returns to the more technological instruments, the beauty of the song unfortunately gets covered up a little bit. It’s still there and there’s a lot of instruments that work well with it, but then there’s that bassy lead. It shouldn’t be there. It’s distracting. Its melody seems almost completely random. It just doesn’t fit with this song. Ignoring that, this one of the less gritty songs on the album. Even the vocals are a bit cleaner than usual. They only have some slight touches of distortion that were unnoticeable on my first several listens).
As is the theme with this album, Black is still coming to peace with the memories he has lost. He does seem to have some familiarity with a certain undescribed place (Obviously we want to know where such a place is, but such information is currently still withheld from us). As he searches for peace in the little he has left in this world, he does his best to reflect over the things he has lost from the mind-wipe. He doesn’t mull over it for long though. He’s at a turning point in his life. He could linger on this undefined past of his or he could look forward to the equally undefined future. A future that will allow him to transform himself into a new person entirely different from the one who’d served White.
He shall redefine himself.
Mind.in.a.box – Redefined (10): Redefined is a masterpiece. I consider it to be the ultimate defining moment in the entire Mind.in.a.box discography. There are so many intricacies within this song that make it rise above the rest of the discography and above nearly every song I’ve ever heard. It is the best Mind.in.a.box song musically. It is the best Mind.in.a.box song lyrically. It is the best Mind.in.a.box song narratively. It is the best Mind.in.a.box song of all time.
Let’s start with the music. Every single moment in this song is fantastic musically. About a month ago, I’d mentioned all of the different musical aspects in Walking that I found to be fantastic. I had to use a bulletpoint list in order to cover all of the intricacies that made the song work. I think I’m going to have to do that again here…
- Immediately following The Place (slowest song on the album) with this masterpiece (most energetic song on the album) only makes Redefined seem even more energetic and more powerful.
- All of the main elements of this song are introduced and developed so seamlessly throughout the introduction of the song. The arp, drums, strings, ambiance, and bassline are all introduced in the first fifteen seconds of the song and it never feels like any of them are struggling for attention over the others. They smoothly ebb in and out with each other and build on each other throughout the first verse.
- Speaking of the first verse, the song still continues to introduce subtle elements, a couple of small melodies and a second bassline. Not to mention the drumbeat that grows ever more intensive.
- During the chorus, the song switches to half-time allowing for a more reflective feel (which matches the chorus’ lyrical content to a tee). The variety works great, giving a quick breather in the middle of the high energy verses and prechorus.
- Even more striking is when the high tempo returns from the chorus. It’s especially noticeable after the first chorus as the snare in this portion has a great punch to it driving that energetic feel home.
- There’s a couple of additional melodies introduced in the second verse of the song. The changes are subtle, but it still adds a new bit of variety. I find it fascinating how many small melodies there are in this song that could easily go unnoticed the first few listens.
- The structure of this song is actually quite familiar, but I’ll get into that when I go over the narrative excellence.
When it comes to the lyrics, I’d say Redefined is the most inspiring song in the entire discography. Crossroads may narratively focus a lot on Black trying to move forward in his life despite his fractured memories, but it’s also about change and transformation. At several points in my life, I’ve found myself feeling lost. I’m unsure of where my past has led me. I’m unsure how to define myself in the present. I’m unsure of what paths I should take in the future to try and find a new self that I can be proud of. I’m always telling myself that I’m “at a turning point in my life,” but in reality, the person I am is constantly changing, constantly transforming, constantly redefining.
I’m rambling. I could talk forever about the existential paths I wander. My main point here is that any moment can be a time of change and transformation. Redefine yourself from who you used to be to the person you desire to be. That’s what Black is doing in this song.
Narratively, this song is a major turning point in Black’s journey. After mulling over his memories for the entirety of this album, he takes steps forward to free himself. But the fact that this song is a major turning point isn’t what fully interest me this time around. In order to truly see the genius of this song, we have to take a step back and look at the last album, specifically the song Machine Run. These two songs are intensely connected. For every lyric Machine Run has exploring Black’s anguish trapped within the cycle of working as a Stalker, Redefined tears it apart, redefining Black’s life now that he’s free.
No longer will he feed the machine that represents White’s hold on Black’s life or be on the constant run trying to find the Dreamweb. For now, he shall stand his ground and fight the machine that had once held him captive. No longer will he suffocate his dreams until his identity completely fades away. For now, he shall embrace the identity he has lost and instead let the machine fade away from his life.
No longer shall the endless cycles of routine overwhelm Black For now, he has found a brand-new beginning to start his life anew. No longer shall he feel that his life is going nowhere, that everything he does leads him back to where he started. For now, he shall look into the future and define himself by what he will become rather than what he’s been.
He is redefined.
Mind.in.a.box – Lucid Dreams 2 (7.5): There it was up ahead. And I was not afraid any more.
Another short ambient exploration into Black’s mind. What makes this interesting is how it shows Black’s development over the course of this album. 6 songs ago he found himself overcome with fear. He no longer questions his fear. For now, he is no longer afraid.
The Crossroads are up ahead…
Mind.in.a.box – Crossroads (8.25): Well, the crossroads aren’t up ahead any more. We have finally arrived. Now independent of White’s control, Black is free to make his own choices. The choices were always there, but until now, Black has been blind. He’s mindlessly pushed his way forward on the only path he’d seen before him, the path of a Stalker. But now that the Sleepwalkers have saved his mind, a whole new world has opened in front of him. He is now free to truly live rather than just survive. His mind is his own
Really tricky to review this one since I’m still fresh off of Redefined (Lucid Dreams 2 is more of a story element that a song). The lyrics are a bit more simplistic. They do represent the theme of the album well (I’d hope so. This is the titular track after all), allowing Black to face the choices in his life. To take on the new life he’s been granted by the Sleepwalkers. But there really isn’t that much left to go into as we’ve been talking about these Crossroads so much as they approached. This album represents a turning point. If Black is now free to choose, what path will he take?
The music in this one is pretty run of the mill for Mind.in.a.box. That’s not a bad thing as Mind.in.a.box is my favorite artist for a reason. But it does mean I don’t have much in particular to point out other than go through the Mind.in.a.box checklist. Good technological vibe with some layered arps? Check. Solid drumbeat and bassline driving through the song? Check. The occasional subtle melody giving a tiny bit of flavor to the song? Check (though it took some time for me to pick them out so maybe that’s part of the reason I find this song to be less remarkable). Distorted vocals that delve into the existential mysteries of the Mind.in.a.box universe? Check. It’s a Mind.in.a.box song and I don’t easily dislike a Mind.in.a.box song (Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever disliked a Mind.in.a.box song).
I think there may be a subtle reference to Machine Run with the guitar riff that appears in the background after the “How long since I cared” line, but compared to the parallels that song has with Redefined, this detail is pretty unremarkable. For all I know Poiss could just really like that bassline and has a tendency to implement it into many songs. Still, Poiss doesn’t seem like the kind of guy to do that sort of thing on accident. The questions Black asks himself here could be him questioning how much of himself he truly drained in order to feed the machine in the past. Perhaps there are several other similar references like this throughout the other songs and I’m only noticing the Machine Run riff because that’s so memorable.
Mind.in.a.box – Run for Your Life (7.5): And here we are at the album closer. There’s a bit of a cinematic vibe compared to the rest of the album. That ominous cinematic intro is likely the best part of the song as it sets a good tone. It eventually reaches a slightly more peaceful feeling at the end with a subtle choir, but almost immediately after, a glitch infested driving drumbeat takes over the song, leaving only short notes of the stringed variety as the only remnant of the orchestral origins this track had. From there on out, it doesn’t really have too much variety. But the darker tone does leave some suspense as the third chapter concludes and the fourth chapter resides somewhere in the future (though you could listen to the next chapter right now if you wanted. This album is a decade old).
The past two albums have closed with some good reflections on Black’s mind as he prepares for the next chapter of the story. This one is quite minimalistic as far as lyrics go though. All we know is that despite Black saying he no longer needs to run as of Redefined. Something is still chasing him. White hasn’t given up on Black yet. He beckons him to return. The struggle continues. Black may be on the path to peace, but he’s not there yet. He must continue forward into his future as he rediscovers himself and the reality that’s been hidden from him.
Conclusion: Crossroads was my first Mind.in.a.box album. Yeah, I started in the middle on chapter three so sue me. But even before I knew that there was deeply intricate cyberpunk story lurking in the shadows, I couldn’t help but enjoy this album. Redefined is definitely a big favorite of mine, getting a rare 10/10. And many of the other songs reach into that higher range as well. I think what I like most about this album is that it’s all about embracing change and reaching for a new beginning. A value that I’m constantly trying to implement into my own life. I feel like of the many Mind.in.a.box albums that have come to be so far, I connect to this one the most. And so, it rises above the rest.
Final Score: (8.25/10)