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)