Infected Mushroom – Classical Mushroom (2000 Album)

Album Links:

Bandcamp: n/a

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/infectedmushroom/sets/classical-mushroom

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/2grGW8nXZXzIcQbVKcDx88?si=NeiBQfHtSSuaqmtld40ZUA

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_kXwEb9OaV83_vAopEGm3bYVNIOOtD3B3Q

 

Foreword: Alright let’s get back into some more Classic Infected Mushroom music. Hey what a neat coincidence. That’s nearly the title of the album. I totally didn’t plan that (yes I did). I don’t think I need to go further in depth of what I think of Infected Mushroom as my review from two weeks ago pretty much covered all of the information I want to talk about. That’s what happens when you do a repeat of an artist (which I will be doing often). Anyways, enough rambling. Let’s talk more of some good ol’ psytrance.

 

Infected Mushroom – Bust A Move (8.25): Starting out with the most iconic of the nine, we have Bust a Move. This is the song I’m most familiar with of the bunch, though I will admit I do prefer a certain remix that I may or may not talk about later this year. But that’s another story for another time.

 

Bust a Move is easily a step up from the average track from The Gathering. And I feel that some of that has to with a greater variety of instruments used, many of them coming from non-electronic means (well, l guess it’s possible that they’re computer generated but if so, they imitate the real thing quite nicely). Now I’m not going to say that physical instruments are inherently better than the synths one can generate with a computer. I think it’s more about how the instrument is used in the song, the melodies and patterns that come together to make a fully fleshed song. Honestly, I think many of my favorite songs use a combination of electronic synths and more recognizable instruments. Bust a Move is a good example of such a song.

 

It’s hard to get into the specifics of this song, because this song is not only consistently amazing, but also quite diverse. I don’t think the song goes a full thirty seconds without introducing a new instrument or a new melody, or in some cases an entirely different mood. I think if I were to highlight one moment (and believe me this was a difficult choice). I’d have to go with the sudden switchup at 5:40. This is perhaps the largest jump in tone in the entire song, with a new instrument, playing a simple 4-note melody. I want to say the new instrument is a particular type of keyboard instrument but I can’t be held accountable for how my actual musical knowledge pales in comparison to my simple emotional passion for the artform and how it pleases my mind. Regardless this switch up along with the fast-paced piano that accompany it in the second half of this section really bring an extra level of flavor to the song that stands out.

 

And it’s obviously intentional but it’s fun how the vocal sample from Species II speaks of getting infected and infecting aliens (maybe that ugly looking thing on the cover playing the mushroom piano is an infected alien. It certainly looks ugly enough) and it’s Infected Mushroom and oh I am just so easily amused sometimes. Funny how both this introductory song and Release Me from the last album seem to have hidden (or not so hidden) puns in the samples used.

 

Infected Mushroom – None of This is Real (7.25): Oh boy. Talk about an existential title. Though really it is only surface level existentialism. Sure, you can feel like all of reality is fake and meaningless sometimes, but, where do you go from there? It’s not like the song provides much to add to the subject as it’s just a vocal sample of some dude from The Crow: City of Angels giving the song its namesake, but hey at least it drew me in.

 

The music for this one does have a decent amount of focus on how Infected Mushroom can distort the guitar to suit the mood of their song. There’s the acoustic guitar at the beginning which is left alone for the most part, just there to add a little flavor to the overall unsettling vibe of nothing being real. And the rest of the distorted synths, both the metal basslines and the howling melody, continue the creepy vibe quite well. I do feel that this song is still a bit weaker overall than some of the others in this album. It’s still good but I don’t really feel it pushes the boundaries that Infected Mushroom is capable of breaking.

 

Infected Mushroom – Sailing in The Sea of Mushroom (6.25): While it’s the same tempo as the rest of the album. Sailing in The Sea of Mushroom, instantly sounds more energetic. This is, of course, thanks to the melody at the beginning which has a driving vibe even with its irregularity and lack of drums backing it up. Unfortunately, while this melody could set the tone for a fantastic song, it instead puts the best ten seconds of the song at the very beginning and everything that follows feels empty and underwhelming. Even when the same melody returns for the midpoint of the song, it just doesn’t have that same punch. I’m not saying that the rest of the music is bad. It just does very little with the huge expanse of time it has. There are some points admittedly that do have an alright groove to them and while it doesn’t have the same energy, the melody at the 2 minute mark is rather decent, but for the most part the song just doesn’t live up to its intro.

 

Infected Mushroom – The Shen (6): The opening of the Shen is strikingly memorable to me for some reason. I haven’t truly come back to listen to some of the really old Infected Mushroom tracks until rather recently, but that melody was incredibly familiar despite the fact that much of the rest of the song is rather less memorable. I can already see I’m getting into the same pattern I did with The Gathering. Infected Mushroom may have upgraded their sound to incorporate more realistic instruments and overall be higher quality, but the album still doesn’t have too much variety for tone. Some of the songs simply feel a bit too similar to the rest. This is one of them. There is a middle bit that’s a bit different with a pitched down vocal sample from who knows what (Either Merlin or Virus according to Wikipedia) that stands out a bit more in tone, but that’s like saying a black marble stands out in a sea of white marbles. It’s still just a black marble.

 

Infected Mushroom – Disco Mushroom (8.5): Disco Mushroom is definitely one of the songs that stand out among the rest. It is easily the most cinematic of the bunch. The introduction alone has an ominous choir bringing in the oncoming storm that is Infected Mushroom psytrance. While I wouldn’t say this song is as diverse as Bust a Move, it still does have a fair amount of material to offer. From the cinematic rise and stab that initially brings the beat into play to the bells and chimes used to play some of those first few melodies to the xylophonic melody played at the end of the song. All of it comes together to create one of the more immersive experiences on the album. In fact, I think that the more immersive experience of Disco Mushroom actually makes it a slight bit better, making it the best on the album

 

I think the most enjoyable moment by far is the switchup (I love switchups apparently) following the utterance of the second “I’m not afraid any longer Mommy” from In Dreams. At least I think it’s from In Dreams. Wikipedia is rather unclear of which samples belong exactly to which films but that’s my fault for using such a simple source and for not being all that knowledgeable of 90s films (which I believe are mostly obscure but I wouldn’t know because I’m no expert. Music is my passion, not movies and I’m kind of all over the place with my music knowledge too.)

 

Shoot I got distracted. The Switchup! It’s a great moment where all fades away but a small solitary melody for a brief moment. The near silence, even if it’s short, gives me chills every time. Of course, the song becomes a bit more instrumentally complex again following another cinematic rise and stab. But still. It’s the little moments that get me sometimes.

 

Infected Mushroom – Dracul (6.75): Fittingly, the sample used in the beginning of this song hails from a 1992 film titled Dracula. Just, it seems Infected Mushroom felt that one a was enough for the iconic vampire lord. So we have the shorter title, Dracul. Why? Well, I can’t really read their minds and seeing as the duo have produced nearly 2 dense decades of psytrance since then, it’s very well possible they’ve forgotten as well.

 

Regardless of the title’s origin, Dracul aspires to be one of the creepier songs on the album (or maybe I just feel it should because the title could fit well with a Halloween theme), which is quite the challenge as early Infected Mushroom is often quite unsettling. I honestly feel that Disco Mushroom did a bit of a better job at the whole creepy unsettling vibe, but this song does get close at times. The main two unsettling elements of this song are the strings introduced at the beginning of the song and the lyricless vocals sung throughout.

 

Now, the strings don’t fully commit to the whole creepy vibe that I’d expect from Dracul, but there is an integral tension to them. They drawn me in with a sense of sorrow and despair (though that could also be because of the vocal sample, but the strings do help. The lyricless vocals are a bit more interesting. I feel that they compliment the strings well and despite the fact that they may just be one of the two growing into the mic to a simple melody. Either way, the vocals do have somewhat of a dramatic introduction not them and they serve as the most unique part of the song. Plus they get tremoloed a bit at particular points which is definitely enjoyable.

 

Other than these two elements though there’s not much in this song that’s particularly noteworthy. Which is fine the song works well enough on its own anyways. And I am perhaps being a bit too harsh insisting it must be creepy, but it does feel odd that the two songs on either side of it are a bit more unsettling overall.

 

Infected Mushroom – Nothing Comes Easy (7.5): So yeah, I just claimed that this song is a bit more unsettling than Dracul. Honestly, I’m probably over-exaggerating, as this one is slightly more enjoyable perhaps, but when you get right down to it, the factors of this song that make it stand out in its unsettling mood are very similar to what makes Dracul good: the vocals and the way they’re distorted. Instead of a groaning melody, this time we have a much smoother choir, which I personally find a slight bit more unnerving somehow. Just something about the tone is a bit more mysterious. And the way the vocals phase in and out definitely adds to the song.

 

As for the music in this song, there are some strings near the end playing a sweeping melody that eases up and down in waves as the song reaches its conclusion, but it’s not excessively better than Dracul’s strings. Not sure if I can truly compare the melodies as they are oh so very different from one another even though they basically have the same effect on how they contribute to the unsettling vibe of the song. So, I guess it’s a draw when it comes to the strings.

 

However, the strings are just one small piece of the song, there’s plenty of other elements that contribute to the unsettling mood that I’d consider to be a staple of the first age of Infected Mushroom at this moment. There’s some other deeper distorted vocal instruments that appear midway through the song, several different layered melodies that take up the second half of the song as well as a short chilling melody that introduces itself before the strings come to take us away from this song and onto the next…

 

Infected Mushroom – Mushi Mushi (6.5): Hey, as long as we’re talking about creepy and unsettling tracks, let’s take a look at this powerful, magical and evil track, Mushi Mushi, a creepy track, that happens to be the next song on the album (or is it that the next song on the album happens to be creepy? The latter probably). Honestly, it’s really just the intro that especially creeps me out. Those first 40 seconds give my blood a slight curdling what with the eerie echoing synth and the Merlin sample from which I pulled the adjectives I used to describe this song earlier (Powerful, magical and evil).

 

Unfortunately, putting the maximum creepiness at the front of the song causes this track to fall into the same pitfall as Sailing in the Sea of Mushroom from earlier on in the album. The rest of the song is just kind of underwhelming. I don’t think it ends up quite as bland as Sea of Mushrooms did, as there are some subtle melodies that are slightly interesting and the creepy melody from the intro continues to influence the track here and there, maintaining its unsettling aura whenever it arrives to take the spotlight (though I will admit that my favorite part is the melody that begins at the 4 minute mark, when our creepy spotlight melody isn’t present).

 

In the end, this song has a lot of potential, but it falls short of the glory it deserves simply because of the way it’s organized. This is why you save your best melodies for the later parts of the song. They’re much more powerful there. A lesson Infected Mushroom will learn and demonstrate several times in later albums, but for now, I’ll take the quality given to me.

 

Infected Mushroom – The Missed Symphony (7): Last song on the album here is The Missed Symphony. Must have been lost or forgotten at some point, but thankfully it’s been found in time for me to review it. And oh boy is it a long one. We’ve got ten minutes of music here, but it is truly ten minutes of content? Does it deserve the length it receives (definitely on the longer end of Infected Mushroom songs)? Well, to be brutally honest, I’m going to have to say no. Now, don’t get me wrong. The song is definitely still enjoyable. I just feel like if they’re going to go for a full ten minutes, Infected Mushroom should instill a little more variety into the work (which they do more often in later songs in their discography).

That being said, there are still plenty of good elements to this song. The main melody with the strings is chilling. Each melody that serves to accompany it in this ten-minute journey serves this chilling vibe well, from eerie notes that sound like they’re echoing from a distant cave (see 1:30) to the piano that shows itself around 7 minutes as well as the intro and outro) to the synth that introduced itself immediately afterwards. All of these melodies are definitely good. But there are too few and too far in between to really justify ten minutes worth of material. Still, it’s a pretty good song, so I guess I can’t complain all that much. I guess the distance between insanity and genius is measured only by success. And this song just isn’t quite the success to be truly as genius as it could be… Ok that quote doesn’t work quite great for this particular situation, but I wanted to incorporate it anyway.

 

Oh, one last odd thing. The way that this song ends with the song beginning to step backwards into reverse as we reach those last 20 seconds is quite an interesting ending to this album.

 

Conclusion: And so, concludes the second Infected Mushroom review. Definitely a visible improvement from the last album. There’s still a bit of a mixture of quality songs in there. But the best is certainly better than the best of The Gathering and the worst is still well above average. Like I mentioned near the beginning for this review, this album uses a few more physical instruments than the last one and the combination of all of the pianos, strings, and psytrance noises definitely makes for an enjoyable experience. The duo still hasn’t hit their peak potential but they’ve definitely made something good here.

 

Final Score: (7/10)

Mind.in.a.box – Lost Alone (2004 album)

Album Links:

Bandcamp: https://mind-in-a-box.bandcamp.com/album/lost-alone

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/mindinabox/sets/lost-alone-1

Spotify: n/a

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_mB4hmJLL7W2VacrUEK1r0CPMpi2MjKF9Y

 

 

Introduction: Mind.in.a.box is truly an underrated mastermind of an artist. Obviously, I consider him to be one of my favorites, as that’s the reason I’m stepping into his discography for the occasional review. But the man (named Stefan Poiss by the way) has a knack for immersing me into a world full of cyberpunk noir and technological existentialism. You see, each of the albums in Mind.in.a.box’s discography (sans R.E.T.R.O. but I’ll talk of that one another time), are merely chapters in a story focusing in on a currently unnamed agent and his interactions with his employer as he tracks a mysterious hacker in a world where the minds. Or at least, that’s what the first album is about. The world expands and grows more complicated as time goes on and I plan on revealing more and more about this world as I analyze each chapter of the story (though not all at once, I don’t plan on necessarily rushing through this discography. It could take a few months or so to finish it). I’ll be frank with you, as much as I’ve listened to Mind.in.a.box, I’m not really fully an expert on the full story but I have a rough idea of it all. Still, don’t take my theories and analysis as 100% fact (I mean, it’s a fictional story so none of it is factual by default). Feel free to ponder this guy’s stuff on your own.

 

Mind.in.a.box – Light and Dark (8.25): Light and Dark is our debut song for Mind.in.a.box so it has a lot sitting on it to pull us into the world. And while it is very minimalistic in the lyrics department, the overall tone is still a good introduction for the album. The arps and the drumbeat highlighted in both the beginning and end of the song make for a great technological drive along with the heavily distorted vocals (you’ll be hearing a lot of these). However, it’s the middle of the song, starting at about 1:40 that I really want to highlight. Here, the beat may have been taken out for a bit, but the bassline keeps the drive going and every other aspect of the song, from the swaying pads to the continued arps to the simple melody rising and falling with the rest of the song.

 

And It’s also here where we’re introduced to the main lyrical chorus of the song. Before I get into the lyrics (you’ll soon discover, I really love getting into lyrics), I’d like to comment on these two voices you hear in the song. The first you hear is a computerized female voice, which makes up a good chunk of the vocals throughout Mind.in.a.box’s discography. The second is a deeper throaty voice, which I believe are sung by our main character of the story (for now), the agent I mentioned in the introduction (though there are some songs with the first voice that work well with the agent’s story as well. Like I said, I’m not a full expert. I just enjoy the music). Also, just a fun little note. Stefan does all of the vocals himself. He’s just really good at vocal distortion

 

I feel sad, so left alone. Words are not enough for me to live on. These are the lyrics of light and dark and while they may notreveal much about the story, my enjoyment of these vocals do reveal a bit about myself. I’m no stranger to feeling depressed and isolated. My mind just seems to default to that mood. Trust me, we’ll get into all the existential ramifications my mind likes to ponder on more as we progress. It’s an inevitability I hinted at in my last review and the odds of such feelings bleeding out in this review are quite high. For now, let’s just sum up the fact I can relate to this song and leave it at that. There’s much more to get into.

 

Mind.in.a.box – Change (7.5): See, I’m all about change. I spend a lot of my life trying to change and improve myself into a better person than I was yesterday. The transformative development of all people is kind of one of my core values. So, obviously, I would enjoy a song titled Change. Well… Not necessarily. This is quite early on in the story so while change becomes important later on. This song is about the paradoxical desire and denial of change. Gotta be honest, I’m slightly conflicted.

 

Well, while I think it over, let’s take a quick look at the music of the song. While I still enjoy the Mind.in.a.box vibe, I don’t feel the music in this one stands out as much as in the last song. There’s a good solid syncopated drumbeat in the verses and some nice stabs here and there, but it never really immerses me like Light & Dark or some of the songs later into Mind.in.a.box’s discography. The music in the chorus isn’t quite as interesting to be honest: just a 4 on 4 drumbeat and some chords. The song does develop as it goes on so some arps get involved the second time around, but still, Mind.in.a.box can do so much better.

 

Alright, so the main issue with the lyrics of change is the paradox of desire and denial. Repeatedly, the speaker of this song desires change. There’s a great fear and loneliness expressed throughout the song. Yes, they desire change in their life, but I think the important part is that they refuse to change themselves but instead wait for someone else to change the core of who they are. They wait for life to get better instead of putting the effort forth to change themselves. And I’ll admit that this is an easy mindset to slip into. I’ve gotten into points in my life where I desire to improve but feel stuck and instead wait for life to change around me as I go through the actions. But in the end, I’ve found that it’s only when I take action for myself that change can occur.

 

As for the narrative itself, well this is more of a setup for the changes that the agent will find himself going through as the story progresses. An establishment of the theme. The agent can’t deny change forever. It will happen.

 

Mind.in.a.box – Falling (7.25): The next song on the album returns to playing form the agent’s perspective with the throatier vocals. Here we get into the existential pondering of the agent as he questions his purpose (oh boy, that sounds familiar to me). This song has a bit more of a drive than the last one with a more prominent bassline and a good fast-paced melody. The sound of this song overall is a bit lesser than many of the other songs on the album, but it still does work and it does have some good points to it. The deep breath taken by the agent at about 2:20 is a great touch that slipped by my ears the first couple listens, but now that I’ve heard it, that one breath will not go unappreciated any longer.

 

The lyrics in this song, while introspective, really just begin setting the scene of the situation for our main character. He feels as if he’s been falling into the cold night. Like I said, he’s a bit existential here, wondering where he is and why he’s there. Most importantly, he seems to have lost his memories This will come up later.

 

We’re barely scratching the surface here, so I don’t have too much to say specifically. We’ll go more in depth to the emotions of the agent as the discography progresses.

 

Mind.in.a.box – You Will See (7.75): One of the more surprisingly funky songs on the album. The bassline has a bit more of a bounce than I’d normally expect from Mind.in.a.box. But the funk doesn’t really interrupt the technological vibe that attracts me to Mind.in.a.box. Just gives the song a unique feel compared to the rest of the album. In fact there’s some points in this song (like the last minute or so) that have a more upbeat technological feel than usual. That last minute is actually my favorite part of the song. I get some nostalgic feels from it as it reminds me a tiny bit of one of my very first favorite artists (I’ll review Andy Hunter another time. He’s not a priority at the moment).

 

As for the lyrics, this song delves into the few memories that the agent does have. Thankfully, they’re not all erased fully. Unfortunately, they seem to focus on a past love of the agent. The whole past love thing does come up in the story from time to time and I’ll admit it’s probably my least favorite element of the story, but there’s a possibility I’ve simply overlooked it. That’s mostly because my attraction to the existential overshadows any hint of love. Love songs don’t really capture my attention and break-up songs especially are a bit lower on my list of enjoyed musical topics.

 

And yet… this one works. I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard this before elsewhere (probably exists, but I either haven’t heard it, or was simply oblivious). Black doesn’t bash his former love (well maybe a little, near the end but that’s not the focus). He acknowledges that the time he spent in that relationship was a pleasant one, regardless of how disastrous it ended up in the end (apparently due to misuse of trust). Black has fallen far from this relationship, but it’s important to note that he doesn’t drown himself in sorrow either. You Will See is about rising up and overcoming the pain. He will climb up to the heights of glory he felt so long ago. He won’t let the despair consume him. It does sounds lightly out of spite that he aims to put his life back together, but there’s still a tone to it that’s oddly inspiring.

 

Mind.in.a.box – Questions (7.75) : Ah yes. The neverending onslaught of questions. This one’s a bit vague as far as the story goes, but it’s still important thematically. True to its title, this song is about the existential questions that constantly plague the mind of the agent. He fills the song with violent metaphors of his relationship with these questions. He can’t fully escape them. He can’t fully get rid of them. But worst of all, he can’t fully answer them. His mind will continually wander among the existential pondering of reality regardless of how it pains him. And it will continue until the day he dies. Yeah, this one’s a bit more desperate than the last few. I mean Mind.in.a.box has already proven to be somewhat of an edgy existential concept so far, but this song really delves into the almost nihilistic view of these never-ending questions. I find myself occasionally falling into the same mindset as the agent here (you may notice that I relate the agent in a lot of ways. That may have to do with why I enjoy Mind.in.a.box so much). I can get out of it occasionally, but it’s not an easy feat.

 

Almost forgot to talk about the music for this one. I feel like it’s a bit lesser than the rest of the album so far. Its edge matches the edge of the song’s lyrics. It’s almost a bit too much. This is particularly noticeable in the first minute of the song with the bassline. It’s not too bad. But it does take a little bit of time to grow on me. The song is a lot better during the more arpeggio focused section. Still, whatever part of the song I listen to, I’ve gotta admit it’s got a fantastic drive to it.

 

Mind.in.a.box – Waiting (8.25): Waiting is the first full-on storytelling song in the album.  Yes, the rest of the songs introduced elements of who the agent is and the themes of this world. But this is the biggest trove of information we’ve had so far. There’s at least two of these each album, most of them focusing on the agent’s conversations with the other characters, though a few of the more recent songs in the discography focus more on reflections of past events or viewpoints from other characters (though those don’t happen until Crossroads and Memories, respectively.

 

(Just want to make a not before I forget, every single instrument as varied as they are from the guitar to the piano to the bassline to the arp, all blend together so well. Yeah, the focus of this song is more about the story than the music but the music is so outstanding I had to mention it. Ok. Back to the story now).

 

In this chapter of Mind.in.a.box’s story, the agent communicates with his employer about a hacker they’ve attached a trace to. For the moment all seems well. The hacker is unaware of the trace and doesn’t appear to notice the agent observing him. He appears to be looking for a mysterious woman that goes unnamed so far. The agent recommends taking the man out now, but it seems his employer recommends to stay according to the plan in place. He won’t be able to escape…

 

Of course, every chapter of Mind.in.a.box’s story raises more questions than answers. We’re now introduced to most of our main cast although one of them is simply silent on the other end of the phone. Still, the employer’s silence speaks volumes of unanswered questions. What is the significance of these two people the agent is watching? Are they working together and if so, why does the woman not recognize him (yet)? What exactly is it that the agent and his employer worry that this hacker might be able to do? And what will they do once the agent is able to corner the hacker? All of these questions will be answered. Though perhaps some of them will wait until another album. For now, let’s enter into the second half of Lost Alone.

 

Mind.in.a.box – Lost Alone (7.5): And so, we’re here at the titular track of this album, Lost Alone. New vocal style here. I’m not certain if this one appears as much as the other two we’ve heard so far. I’m not a huge fan of the final result. My guess, and this guess is reaching, is that this could actually be coming from the Hacker from earlier. Or maybe I’m overthinking this and it’s just that Stefan, like me, decided that this vocal style was too difficult to understand with its crushed distorted style (If he didn’t put all the lyrics on his site, I’d have a hard time reviewing it).  Either way, it appears that someone is reaching out to the agent, telling him that he’s not alone in feeling lost alone.

 

It’s honestly rather encouraging to hear this song. Feeling lost alone results in some excruciating emotions in my experience. That may be why I enjoy listening to music that focuses on such concepts. I find comfort in the knowledge that someone else has a similar experience to my own. It makes feel less… well… alone. No one is truly alone. There is always someone out there that can sympathize. They might not be immediately present, and it might not be easy to find them, but they are there.

 

Mind.in.a.box – Walking (9.5): Yeah, I could definitely see myself walking to this song… or running … or maybe a happy medium between the two with some odd kind of powerwalk. Speaking of happy mediums, I find these vocals to be a happy medium between the two distorted vocals we’ve seen so far in this album: the more feminine style of Change and the overly crushed style of Lost Alone. And it seems that that list boost of flavor from change is exactly what the vocals from Lost Alone needed, because I absolutely love these vocals. Unfortunately, these vocals aren’t as common in the Mind.in.a.box discography as the other two styles we’ve seen so far (not counting Lost Alone). It does appear from time to time, but I can only think of two songs that use it off the top of my head and neither of them are as good as Walking, which I personally consider to be the iconic song from this album.

 

So, what is it about Walking I love so much? Pretty much everything! I’ve said I could definitely powerwalk to this so that makes it clear that there’s a good drive to it. The melodies and textures in this song are the most outstanding on the album. I always prefer to highlight a couple of moments that I find particularly enjoyable, but it’s really hard to in this case, because all of it is fantastic. But let me give you bullet point list of all of it because I need to share how amazing it is.

 

  • I believe that little subtle melody right there at the 50 second mark is responsible for much of the vibe this song has.
  • There’s a high-pitched short melody that appears once and only once at one and half minutes in, but that moment is one of the best parts of the song.
  • The chorus in the middle of the song that starts at 1:54 has some fantastic ambiance to it with both the chords and the echoing drumbeat that fades in and out. Absolutely captivating. The fact that the chorus has fantastic lyrics (get to them in as bit) helps a lot as well.
  • Immediately following that chorus is the best melody on the entire album. It has so much more energy to it and it contrasts really well with the typically gritty atmosphere that I’d usually expect from Mind.in.a.box. It doesn’t clash either. It’s just a great vibrant light in the middle of the darkness.

 

And then there’s the lyrics. As if this song wasn’t fantastic enough already. This song has the audacity to make me feel the perfect mixture of existential despair and the inspirational desire to move forward in life anyway. Well, that second part isn’t as immediately obvious as the lyrics about sadness are very nearly overwhelming. But I’m one who enjoys a bit of reflection of the despair I feel from time to time. Sometimes, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the path we travel, especially when the future is so hazy.  But the despair isn’t permanent. I’ve been putting a bit more effort into overcoming my fear of the unknowable future, and while I haven’t fully escaped the existential despair that threatens to overtake me, I have found myself able to resist it. I’m not going to just sit here and let the fire in my soul burn out.

 

I’ll keep walking forward.

 

Mind.in.a.box – Take My Soul (8.5): Take My Soul is the most upbeat song in the album. Doesn’t make it the best, but it does stand out compared to all the other songs that give off an underlying darkness to them. Take My Soul still adheres to the technological vibe that is Mind.in.a.box, but lot of the instruments in this song still have a slightly gritty feel to them, especially the lead synth in the chorus. And yet there’s some cleaner instruments as well, such as the stabs in the verses and the piano that appears in the intro, prechorus and intro. I feel that even the drums and vocals are a bit cleaner than usual. In fact, those clean vocals may even signify that this song isn’t sung by the agent (well what really convinces me is the lyrical content, but I’ll explain why later).

 

Take My Soul is all about escapism. It’s easy to feel that the reality we live in is flawed (not that perfection is really possible anyways) and we desire to escape from it. We imagine a perfect life and we wish to escape into it. Well, the singer of this song, who I believe is the hacker that Black has been following has made such an escape. No longer is he confined to the drab dark picture he paints in his first voice, but he instead immerses himself into a dream (can’t help but notice this word choice) in which he can find peace. It doesn’t matter to him that it’s unreal, that there’s not really anything there. That he is becoming complacent (a great fear of mine actually, maybe I should use this song as a wake up call for my own escapist habbits). He is living his dream. He has found escape…

 

Mind.in.a.box – Forever Gone (8.25): The hacker has escaped. The trace has disappeared. He is no longer cornered by whatever trap the agent and his employer have set in place. The man has completely disappeared and Black is only able to find him later at a bar, sprawled out on the ground with some unspecified technological gear nearby. He’s switched over to the other side. To an alternate reality made up of his own dreams. A place where Black and his employer can no longer find him. Their mission has failed…

 

It’s really hard to compare the two narrative tracks on this album. As far as the music goes, I think Waiting is a little bit better. It has a better blend of real instruments like the guitar and the piano while this song focuses almost exclusively on arps (not that there’s anything wrong with that). However, when it comes to the story itself, the stress of the agent losing his trace on the hacker in this song really has a stronger effect than simply watching the hacker from a distance. Plus, it has an additional chorus as a message from our hacker, taunting the fact that he has escaped the clutches of Black and his employer. He has escaped into his own dreamweb…

 

He is forever gone…

 

Mind.in.a.box – Lost Alone 2 (8.25): And so, we’re here at the titular track of the album… again… I believe that Lost Alone 2 is the agent’s answer to the message from the last Lost Alone. I’d consider this to be the superior iteration of Lost Alone. Mostly because the vocals are tons better. The themes are relatively similar. In a way, we’re all lost alone. Confused and isolated. Perhaps some more than others (and perhaps I’m biased due to my existential tendencies), but we needn’t be fully alone. Take comfort in the fact that no one is perfect and that there are people out there that sympathize with your struggles whatever they may be. We might not necessarily know this person. But I can promise they exist.

 

Not knowing where you belong is definitely a big theme in Mind.in.a.box’s discography. The agent’s future is riddled with the pondering of this question. The agent, like most of us, finds himself lost in a world that makes him question who to trust. A world that makes him question what is real. A world that tears apart his mind until he can’t help but question the very essence of his being. And yet, even in simpler times, before the storm that is about to happen to him. The agent is lost. He likely won’t ever fully feel certain.

 

But that doesn’t mean he has to be alone.

 

Mind.in.a.box – Leave (8): Leave is the closer to the debut album of Mind.in.a.box. It was where we end the first leg of out journey. A journey that has only just begun. As the closer of this song, Leave has a slightly more majestic feel to it. Not quite as dark, mysterious and brooding as the rest of the album. All of the melodies feel brighter, almost as if the rest of the album took place at the dead of night and this song is seeing the sun rise before the album fades away. Actually, seeing that this is a narrative album, it’s all too possible that this is exactly the case. After a long night of tracing the hacker and then finding nothing but an empty body, the agent finds himself in a mind-numbing situation. His mind is racing a hundred miles an hour and yet he’s paradoxically paralyzed in his doubt. He needs to find a new place. Somewhere he can clear his head.

 

And so, he leaves…

 

To be continued…

 

Conclusion: Mind.in.a.box is perhaps the most conceptually exciting artists I’ve ever heard. I’m not saying all music should have a narrative like this, but I wouldn’t complain if I saw it more often. However, I doubt any of them would be able to truly top Mind.in.a.box. Stefan has provided an excellent mindbending story exploring many mental twists that I seem to find quite relatable (not sure if I should find this concerning but I guess that’s just the case I’m dealing with at the moment. Black and I are quite an existential pair.). And as for the music there’s both a fantastic technological sound of his whole discography as well as some great vocals, be they clean, gritty, or distorted. All of this together makes for a splendid artist. The best part is that, as solid as this debut album is, it’s actually one of the lesser Mind.in.a.box albums in my opinion. It gets even better than this.

 

Final Score: (8/10)

Infected Mushroom – The Gathering (1999 Album)

 

Album Links:

Bandcamp: n/a

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/infectedmushroom/sets/the-gathering

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/5Oqb46QRDn3RpaWToqjuzk?si=jJX7-ah6QSKo4jguVbzpDg

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_lNUOtcibniKkj1nQRqI4rpZOG0tRpTpec

 

Foreword: Oh dear, the cover art for this album is a slight bit more risqué than I remember what with the thorny bosom and the upskirt mushroom with a phallic stem… What a lovely first impression I’ve made on you all… Well, this was the initial impression Infected Mushroom made to the world and they’re currently at the top of my favorite artists of all time, so hopefully this initial impression of myself has a similar effect, though perhaps becoming your favorite music reviewing hobbyist is getting a bit ahead of myself. I am, after all, only getting started. And for my first review, I’d like to start, fittingly at the beginning of one of my favorite artists of all time.

 

Infected Mushroom – Release Me (7.5/10): Release Me is a great opening track to The Gathering for multiple reasons. I feel it does a good job of introducing the dark and somewhat ominous tone that resonates throughout this album. This tone wouldn’t last the entire Infected Mushroom discography, and I will admit that I prefer their last decade or so a bit more, but it is still a well-done introduction. Also, the fact that the front song of their first release is literally titled “Release Me” is rather amusing, regardless of whether it was intentional or coincidental.

 

Now at eight and a half minutes long (normal length for an Infected Mushroom song to be fair), this song has a lot of space to fill, hopefully with a variety of patterns, be they basslines or melodies. We, of course, have the psytrance drumbeat driving the song forward from beginning to end. That’s a given on this album and shan’t be mentioned again. Besides that, we have some good guitar riffs in the first half of the song as well as some strings providing the groundwork of the ominous vibe that the duo was likely going for. My personal favorite moment of the song is the slightly calmer section with the strings at the song’s midpoint. The tone at the beginning of this section as well as the harp in the middle just provide a nice bit of flavor that’s always needed in these longer songs.

 

Lastly, just a quick nod to the namesake of this song, a sample from the alien interrogation scene of Independence Day. Many of the songs on this album feature little clips like that. Independence Day is the only one I’ve seen and while this sample does fit in with the vibe of the song, I don’t really have any further thoughts on it.

 

Infected Mushroom – The Gathering (6/10): The titular track of the album is a slight step down from Release Me. Not saying it’s a bad song. But it is certainly one of the lesser songs of the album. There’s simply less to offer in my opinion. Yes, it’s still a decent psytrance song with the little distorted splashes of style that one would expect from Infected Mushroom, but very little of the song actually interests me. There’s some decent percussion here and there and I do enjoy the section around the 5-minute mark with what I believe is a marimba, but there’s very little to make this song stand out from the rest.

 

Even the vocal sample in this case is rather bland, perhaps even detracting from the quality. I would assume that these vocals (which apparently comes from Grand Theft Auto), were not originally recorded at the pitch you are hearing right now. Infected Mushroom likely distorted it to their liking. And while I absolutely adore the way they play with vocals in modern days, this pitch-up is rather uninteresting at best and slightly annoying at worst.

 

Infected Mushroom – Return to the Shadows (8/10): Return to the Shadows is, in my opinion, the most memorable track from Infected Mushroom’s debut album. Perhaps it’s the ominous ringing synth played at the beginning of the song. Perhaps it’s the percussion that sounds like a clanging of metal accompanied by the yells of men hard at work. Or perhaps it’s how they play with the bassline throughout the song. Every melody that’s played feels like it branches well off of the bassline and it all meshes together quite well. However, the melody that stands out the most is perhaps the one that also differs from the bassline the most. At the six-minute mark, the drums fade out to reveal nice funky pattern of notes that contrast a bit more than usual from the bassline.

 

And then there’s the sample hailing from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country: Are you afraid of the future? A common fear, I must say. Or at least, it’s a fear I happen to have. I always find myself wondering exactly what my future has in store for me, but I’m never quite certain if success is awaiting me or if I’m always edging on towards a spiral of failure. And before I ramble on into endless existential mode, perhaps we should move on to the next song…

 

Infected Mushroom – Blue Muppet (6.25/10): This is one of the lower points of the album to be perfectly honest. Once again, not a bad thing, just not quite as enjoyable as the rest. The main reason for this is that for the first 6 minutes of the song, I really am not hearing anything of note to talk about. Nothing that makes this song stick out to me. Well that is until we get to the sample from what I’d assume to be a favorite movie of the Infected Mushroom duo (it appears two other times on the album), The Island of Dr. Moreau. The sample itself isn’t what improves the song. It’s the guitars that follow that bring the song back to the good quality I’d usually expect from Infected Mushroom.

 

Infected Mushroom – Psycho (6/10): I remember this being one of the first classic trance Infected Mushroom songs I heard when I first discovered them. This was likely due to the fact that my edgy teenaged mind was as attracted to the title, “Psycho” as it was to the title, “Becoming Insane” (my first Infected Mushroom song overall, but I’ll cover that much later). Oh, who am I kidding. The person I am in my twenties is still incredibly attracted to edgy stuff, perhaps even more so.

 

Interestingly enough, despite this being the first song I’ve heard in this album, it’s also probably one of the least memorable. Only part of the song that really jogs my memory at all is the screaming of the word, “Psycho.” To count that might be cheating though, as that’s the title of the song. I can see why I don’t remember much of anything else though. While this album is enjoyable to listen to, a lot of the songs sound quite similar except for a few small differences here and there depending on the song. This song doesn’t really have any such differences. There’s some ambiance that sounds like a plethora of sci fi doors opening and closing. Judging from the information I’ve scrounged up from Wikipedia. I’m guessing these sci fi doors samples come from Star Trek: First Contact. The means that the Psycho scream comes from Batman and Robin. As the uncultured swine I am as far as cinema goes, I am unsure what to do with this information.

 

Infected Mushroom – Montoya Rms (7.5/10): I will not be speaking of any of the samples that appear in this song. For this time around, Infected Mushroom forgoes any vocals and simply takes me and any others who might be listening on a splendid journey over the course of about eight minutes. What makes this song work so well for eight minutes is the amount of variety compared to everything else we’ve heard so far. Yes, each of the songs (except perhaps Psycho) have some bit of flavor that helps differentiate it from other songs on the album, but Montoya Rms goes all out and makes every single moment stand out from the rest. I am unable to truly choose a favorite moment to point out nor do I desire to go over each and every one of these elements one by one. Not only would this be a tedious task, but it might just take away from the enjoyment of this song. Half the fun is wondering exactly where the song will go next and letting every intricacy of every melody flow through your soul. Perhaps I am overselling it a bit, but I would highly recommend listening to it for yourself. One of the best songs this album has to offer.

 

Infected Mushroom – Tommy The Bat (7.25/10): Of the nine songs on this album, I feel that Tommy The Bat resembles the vibe of modern Infected Mushroom the most. Oh, it’s still drastically different. But there are elements in this song, that Infected Mushroom has played with in similar ways to this very day. The most notable of these elements is certainly the distorted vocals. Yes, I did mention that the titular song of this album had distorted vocals as well. But that was just high pitched talking. Here, Infected Mushroom chops up the vocals (apparently from a song called Tommy The Cat by Primus), spreads them across the song, and adjusts their pitch to create an entirely new melody. Much of the rest of the song is a few steps closer to modern Infected Mushroom as well. A good example would be the bass at the beginning of the song that’s a bit slower paced, focusing on distorting the sound more than playing the notes rapidfire.

 

The sample which again comes from The Island of Dr. Moreau. states “Please tell them that I am God.” An ominous prideful statement that given the right fire, could spark a theological debate, but I believe that’s too large of a jump in the flow and tone of this review and I’d rather not wander too far into existential territory yet, so perhaps I’ll cut myself short and move on to the next song…

 

Infected Mushroom – Virtual Voyage (5.75/10): Virtual Voyage is a fantastic song name. I like to go on several virtual voyages myself. Or at least that’s what I like to call them. In reality a better description would be lapses into procrastination on the internet, but eh, it’s something I’m working to overcome. Regardless, Virtual Voyage is unfortunately another run of the mill song with very little to specifically note. I did expect to have a few of these while jumping into this review. Unfortunately, I am not prepared to figure out what to say about such songs. I could very well copy most of what I had said about Psycho. The song simply doesn’t have enough unique about it for me to pick it out among the rest of the songs on this album. In fact, this song is even worse off as it has neither any unique ambiance to it, not does it have any memorable vocal samples of someone screaming “Psycho!” There are some parts that diverge from the pattern here and there. A slight melody graces us with its presence about midway through the song but it’s not particularly memorable as it fades away from my memory as soon as it’s over (and it’s honestly, not the most graceful melody to begin with Overall, this is a relatively average song that could have come from any psytrance artists in the 90s

 

Infected Mushroom – Over Mode (5.5/10): Over Mode serves as the closing song to The Gathering. I’m honestly not a huge fan of this one. Not only does it not serve its space well with any unique pleasures to make it stand out from the rest of the songs, but there is also something I find a bit bothersome about this one. And unlike The Gathering, which only bothered me with the occasional pitched vocals. This annoyance is a bit more constant. For a good half of Over Mode, I find myself subjected to the sound of something clinking against glass. Almost as if this song is perpetually calling for a toast that never comes unless perhaps this toast is in dedication to there being “no more scientists, no more laboratories, and no more experiments”. Then again if that were the case, then the clinking would stop after this last Dr Moreau sample was voiced. It does not stop. It keeps going. I will admit that there is still a significant amount of time absent of this clinking, but its presence is still quite irritating to say the least and holds this song back.

 

The rest of the song is relatively decent, not exactly exceptional, but not quite as underwhelming as Psycho or Virtual Voyage either. There’s a fair amount variety to it that allows it to stand out in pleasant ways. The section starting around five and a half minutes into the song with the wavering melodic synth is particularly enjoyable. However, all of this is, again, held back by the clinking, which unfortunately makes it my least favorite song on the album.

 

Conclusion: Over all, The Gathering is a fair debut album for Infected Mushroom though it is admittedly a mixed bag. For every great song on the album, there’s one I’d consider to a bit more average for one reason or another. Still, the album has aged well enough despite being over two decades old. Over those two decades, Infected Mushroom has changed and grown, transforming their music into something new again and again, and while I may prefer later iterations of their style, it is still an enjoyable experience to come back and look at where it started.

 

Final Score: (6.5/10)

Happy New Year 2019!

I would like to personally thank you for coming here to the Red Hat Reviews site at it’s debut (or for searching for the beginning of my posts if it’s a bit beyond January 2019). Either way, I greatly appreciate your visit and hope you’ll be coming back time and time again for album reviews.

 

Speaking of which, the first album review will be out this Friday, January 4. So make sure to check back then and every Friday afterward til the end of time (or til I decide to retire this site, which I don’t plan on doing for years but we’ll see. Also I plan on dying at some point. No specific date set in mind. It’s just an inevitability). You may also want to check my Twitter as I’ll be writing mini-reviews of one song each American evening.

 

This is just a basic overview of what to expect. but if you click on the About tab, you’ll get a more in depth look at what these posts shall fully consist of.

 

Have a wonderful year. I look forward to gathering a plethora of my favorite artists, albums and songs to share with you.