Andy Hunter – Life (2005 album)

Album links

Bandcamp: n/a

Soundcloud: n/a

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/5rO2qQQmQfMqFCPrKu6J2j?si=jcvN–UwRb2q6IYavNvHmA

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLZlMg7JLqwdz0u9iESkVUKhds0NGZHbb2

 

Introduction: Alright, let’s hop right back onto the nostalgia train with Andy Hunter. This album’s a bit shorter at only six songs but perhaps I need a shorter review this week anyway. As I’d mentioned a couple weeks ago in the Exodus review Andy Hunter was my very first EDM artist, so a lot of his earlier stuff is extremely nostalgic to me. His first two albums in particular are the most sentimental to me as I’d discovered them both around the same time (my very first Andy Hunter song was on this album) and seeing as I’d reviewed the first of these two albums, it only makes sense to piggy off that nostalgia into the second (with an apparent Mind.in.a.box intermission form last week but the whole theme of R.E.T.R.O. was nostalgia anyway so it still works).

 

Andy Hunter – Open My Eyes (7.25): Of course, like with all of his albums, we must begin with a high tempo blood pumper to get the energy flowing for the rest of the album. Unlike Go, which has nearly two minutes of ambience and build-up before running into the upbeat tempo, this song has about… two seconds before bringing that energy into the forefront. The stabbing notes that play in unison with the drumbeat serve as the most memorable aspect of this song as they’re used a few times throughout the song. It’s fun, but honestly compared to many of the other album openers I’ve heard, this one is rather unimaginative. I’m not saying the whole energetic mood is moot because of its compared mediocrity to the rest of Andy’s discography. I just feel like there could have definitely been a few more moments to focus on some slightly more interesting melodies than the pounding stabs. Take the melody starting at 2:50 for example. I could definitely use more of that. And the break that comes in nearly directly afterword is great too

 

In fact, I think that break is my favorite part of the song. I briefly considered this to be a build-up from nothing, but really, Open My Eyes has a way of going from 0 to 100 quite instantaneously so there’s not really much of a build-up involved. It just sort of happens. But while we’re in that calmer 0 area, there’s some good guitar riffs and strings that provide a nice breather in the middle of the rest of the song. It’s not fantastic, but it does stand out and give an ok bit of variety to the rest of the song. There are perhaps a few other moments here and there that give a little bit of flavor to the song as well, but they aren’t quite as notable as this one.

 

Open My Eyes also has a few lyrics so I’m going to be taking a brief look at those before moving on to the next song. There’s not excessively much to talk about though. Like I mentioned in Exodus, Andy Hunter does include Christian themes in his music, so this song is quite likely a prayer to God to open his eyes to his glory and to breathe new life into his world. I really don’t have much depth to go into for that though, so we’ll be moving on now.

 

Andy Hunter – Come On (8): Honestly, I would have preferred it if Andy Hunter had started off the album with this blood pumper. Maybe it’s just because it shares a few similarities with Go, but it also might just be because I prefer the energy in this one over Open My Eyes. Perhaps I’ll get into both of those.

 

First off, let’s look at the similarities between this and Go, starting off with some of the obvious ones. Even before listening to a single note, the titles give off a similar vibe. Both of them seem to have a sense of urgency. A call to abandon one’s present location and to run somewhere new). Only difference is Go sounds like it calls for one to travel away from the speaker, while Come On beckons one to come with the speaker. Am I reading way too far into this? As always, that’s a definite yes.

 

There are also some similar musical elements that appear in both this and Go. This song, unlike Open My Eyes, actually takes a slight bit of time to get started. It builds off the ambience that Open My Eyes ended on (more seamless transitions in this album. They never reach the same heights as they did in the last half of Exodus but they still create an enjoyable immersive experience as one song bleeds into the next) and slowly builds up with some suspenseful drumbeats and growing ambience before the song kicks into high gear. Yes, this build-up isn’t even quite half the length as in Go. But that’s a bit better than the practically nonexistent 2 seconds in Open My Eyes.

 

Plus, there’s more dedication to the breakbeat drumbeat that gave Go a lot of its energy. Open My Eyes had some of this, but it also felt quite regulated to a four on four tempo at some points in the song thanks to the pounding stabs introduced at the beginning of the song. Seeing as I’m quite a fan of some good syncopation, this song gets a bit of an advantage over Open My Eyes. There’s also a build-up from nothing in the middle that works quite similarly to the one in Go, providing a quick step back to the initial build-up to give a breather in the middle of the song.

 

Other than that, it’s a bit tricky to figure out what to highlight musically. While Open My eyes didn’t really have too much in particular to point out, Come On has so many things to point out that I’m having troubles figuring out what to leave out. First off, one of the most energizing parts of the song is the rapid bassline coming from a distorted guitar underlying much of the song. I swear that this bassline is playing sixteenth notes in relation to the drumbeat and the song was already fast as it was. There’s also a few other good instruments I’d like to highlight including the slower bassline that has one rolling note every measure, as well as the other guitar melody (I think it’s guitar) that comes in for the second half of the song.

 

Lyrics are rather simple for this one. Come on and Can You Hear Me are both just hype-up phrases with no deeper meaning. 1, 2, 3 and 4… that’s counting. Counting isn’t anything special. The only lyric that has any possible significance is “Your Kingdom Come” which is part of the Lord’s Prayer that refers to God’s future glory. So there is something there, but I have no deeper thoughts on it.

 

Ah well, the lyrics are inconsequential this round. The music makes this a pretty solid energetic track anyways.

 

Andy Hunter & Christine Glass – Alive (9.25): This was it. The very first Andy Hunter song to reach my ears. This was the song that started it all with my taste in electronic music. My taste has developed and expanded a lot in the years since, but this beauty still captures my attention to this very day. A combination of things drew me to this song and to Andy Hunter as an artist in general. First off, I hadn’t heard anything like this up until this point in my life. Despite my obsession with music nowadays, I hadn’t really spent much time seeking it out until my early teenage years. Oh, I’ve definitely love music all my life, but in my single digit years, I just listened to whatever my parents put on for a good while (and none of it was electronic). However, once I got an MP3 player of my own, I started broadening my horizons a bit and Alive is what drew me in to Andy Hunter and the many subgenres of electronic music. Alive is where it all began.

 

The place where Alive begins is off the toes of Come On. One more count-up to four and we head right back into the syncopated drumbeat that we’ve been playing through the entire album so far. However, the tone of the drums has changed slightly. Each drumbeat is played a bit more softly, and the snare is especially toned down a few notches. Oh, and then there’s the toms. The toms are just a fun little treat diverging from what I’ve heard from Andy so far and they give a nice touch to the song here and there. And to top it all off, this song has a surprisingly funky bassline for what I’d consider to be the beauty of the album. Doesn’t really stick to one tone or note so it seems to have a lot of variety to it.

 

This song also feels a lot less busy in comparison to the last two. It’s a lot easier to parse the various basslines and melodies from one another. And yet, while it is easier to separate the melodies within my mind, they still move as a unified force throughout the song. Perhaps that’s due to the fact that none of the melodies are really arguing over one another. Sure, some melodies are more dominant than others at certain points, but there’s nothing really overshadowed. The main melodies of the song come from a variety of sources. There’s the main synth that shows itself at several points within the song and serves as the most consistent presence of beauty. And in addition to that there’s some strings that rise and fall in the second half, eventually bringing the song to a close. Plus, there’s a piano that graces the song with its presence in the center of the song. That piano is responsible for my favorite moment in the song.

 

That’s right. It’s another build-up from nothing. The very first build-up from nothing to reach my ears. And I was immediately in love. All of the different instruments unite here with very little influence from the drums. And like, I said, none of them feel like they’re hogging the spotlight from the others. It’s quite impossible to really figure out how to explain how much this section affects my soul as it reaches Angelic levels of beauty (and I’m referring to both the general adjective as well as the song from Exodus). This is simply one of my favorite build-ups in all of Andy Hunter’s discography.

 

While Christine’s vocals are slightly outshined by that build-up, they still do deserve a mention. You may remember her from Amazing on the last album (she was the one to start off the female vocal half in the middle of the album). Here, her performance is exceptionally better. Her voice has a better chance of drawing me in to a state of calmness. In a way, her own voice can be included as one of the many instruments as her vocals don’t distract from the rest of the song, but she’s not overshadowed by the instrumental either. She’s merely another facet to the beauty that this song encapsulates. The lyrics she sings share a similar theme as they do with amazing. It’s a love song to God (though if you’re not into that thing, it could be heard as a nonsecular love song if you so desire). I don’t have any specific lyrics to point out, so we’ll be moving on.

 

Andy Hunter & Kate Westwall – Wonderful (7.75): Wonderful is the slowest paced song on this album, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the most beautiful and relaxing. Alive already stole that spot. However, a slower song doesn’t have to be exceptionally beautiful and relaxing in order to be good. Wonderful is actually a wonderful example of that.

 

There is still some beauty to this track. Good use of strings as well as a tropical drumbeat throughout the song. Also really love, the guitar that’s played throughout the song. Not sure if this comparison will really resonate with my audience, but it does somewhat remind me of the type of guitar you’d hear in a lot of popular worships songs a decade or so ago. Lastly, there’s Kate’s lyricless vocals (she’ll contribute to the lyrics later), which give some final touches on the chill atmosphere created at the start of the song. However, many of the instruments introduced later somewhat conflict with this relaxation. Thankfully, it’s not badly executed like Show was. There’s no real interference between the two vibes. The song merely transforms into an ever so slightly more energetic mood.

 

Now, this slightly more energetic mood is mainly the work of some other synths that feel a little less natural than what I’ve shown so far. This is where the electronic comes in. Two synths here give this song a bit of bounce. There’s the more quickly paced beeping tone melody that’s only present for the chorus, and what sounds to be a synth made of a distorted vocal (you know me and distorted vocals, or you will, I haven’t quite gotten to that era of Infected Mushroom yet). That second synth is the better of the two and it has a more prominent role overall. In the first half of these bouncier sections it just plays a short note here and there along with the other synth, but after that it focuses on much longer notes that soar along with the guitar, creating the most iconic moments of the song in my opinion.

 

Now, once this slightly energetic transformation does occur, it is nice to see that it isn’t permanent. There are several points where the pure soothing tropical vibe comes back in without the electronic distractions, most notably in the final iteration of the chorus (which also features Kate as a vocalist so neat).

 

Speaking of the lyrics, this song once again seems to be a love song. It’s a bit simpler in comparison to Alive. Only four lines:

 

You are beautiful

You’re the reason why

So wonderful

You make me high

 

That last lyric is a bit odd in my opinion. Perhaps it’s the fact that I know that Andy Hunter is a Christian artist and he likely wouldn’t intentionally try to reference drugs within his music, seeing as that’s what the state of “being high” is often referred to. It’s probably simply meaning a state of emotion that’s supposedly akin to feeling high on drugs. High on love perhaps.

 

Andy Hunter & Neil Wilson – Lifelight (9.75): This song right here is surely the most nostalgic for me. Of the original sixteen songs I’d discovered at first, this is the one that stood out the most. This is the one I listened to on loop for hours upon hours. This is the one that was once my favorite song of all time. While that title has been usurped by several other songs since then, it still holds its own against the works of the hundreds of artists I’ve discovered over the years.

 

So, what is it about Lifelight that kept me coming back? It’s simply how powerful the music is. Alive may be more beautiful sure, and that song holds a special place in my heart as well as the song that started it all, but Lifelight is quite close in comparison to that level of beauty. And then it wins in other categories of musical superiority. Alive’s beauty relied a lot on its more relaxing immersive vibe (despite being the same BPM as the more energetic songs preceding it). Lifelight completely ignores the relaxation. Sure, there’s a build-up from nothing near the end of the song that maintains a temporarily chill atmosphere, but for the most part, Lifelight goes in the opposite direction. It’s energizing drive might not be as intense as Come On’s heavy hitting energy, but instead maintains a better balance, allowing that beauty to seep through.

 

While Alive and Lifelight may differ on how energizing they are, the two songs do share a not so secret weapon: the piano. While Alive used it as the focal instrument in its fantastic build-up from nothing, Lifelight integrates it in the song from the very beginning as the first melodic instrument and its presence persists throughout the entire song. It’s more noticeably present in the calmer verse sections, but that’s only because there’s not nearly as many instruments overshadowing it. By the time we get to the magnificent chorus of the song, the piano does have to drop down a few octaves in order to be heard over everything else and in doing so It changes from beauty to powerful. And seeing as Lifelight isn’t going to beat Alive in the beauty category, going for powerful is the correct choice

 

But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s take a step back. If I go straight to talking about the powerful verses, I’ll miss out on those great guitars in the second verse. Oh, they’re only there for a second but they do a great job of accompanying the pianos and helping the song reach its quick build-up into the fantastic chorus that serves as the heart of the song.

 

And oh, what a chorus. Each chorus begins with a quick drumbeat accelerating the song from the lesser sections, highlighting the dynamic difference between the verses and the chorus. The piano, as mentioned before, transforms into a powerful chord that resonates throughout the chorus. But I think it’s the strings that really take this chorus to the next level. There are soaring notes that play along with the chord progression, but more importantly are the lower notes. The lower notes constantly chanting underneath it all. The lower notes that take that piano’s resonance and accentuating it with the rolling notes. Those lower notes.

 

I would be a fool not to mention the build-up from nothing this song has. They get better and better as the album progresses (though Alive might be an anomaly as it’s better than the buildup from this and the last song). Still, this build-up does see a return of the softer piano, up a few octaves from the chords that have been struck for the past few minutes in order to be heard over the rest of the majesty. But in this build-up, they can keep up with the strings and the slower drumbeat without sacrificing their higher octave beauty. The buildup is a relatively short one, so it doesn’t take long to get right back into that energetic chorus that’s the heart and soul of this song. It’s still one of the best parts of the song though.

 

Lyrics of Andy Hunter songs are relatively inconsequential to my enjoyment these days. However, I feel that this one has a bit more of an emotional personal appeal to it that many of the other songs don’t quite obtain. Several of the songs in Andy Hunter’s discography are rather simple in lyrical concept. It’s your everyday worship song, but electronic. It’s a love song to God that’s electronic. It has a phrase or two with Christian themes in it… and it’s electronic. I feel like compared to all of these songs, Lifelight is a bit more fleshed out. Lifelight is about the light that shines out in the darkness of this world. Lifelight is about breaking through the death that preys on us all and embracing the life that we have in our hands. Lifelight is about the constant discovery of God’s glory as the world continues to surprise us with new forms of beauty. Lifelight is life itself, a light in the darkness.

 

Andy Hunter & Kate Westwall – To Life, To Love (8.5): The sirens sound as we transition from Lifelight to this last song. We’re at the finale. Kate Westwall returns from Wonderful to participate in the most technological song of the bunch. Definitely a step up from her first feature on the album despite how wonderful it was. It’s a step down from the majesty that is Lifelight but it still makes for a much better finale to the album than Intercessional did.

 

The sirens give way to a distant but powerful drumbeat. Then the growing ambience that creates an immersive atmosphere as the song begins to rise. Then the ticking of a clock as we countdown to the point where the beat truly drops in. Kate’s voice echoing a simple ditty of meaningless (but slightly catchy) syllables. And then it happens. The beat comes in.

 

This beat in this song is quite bouncy with a melodic tone hitting on the offbeat whenever possible. Combine that with perhaps a drumbeat that’s a bit harsher than the rest of the songs on the album and the contrast between the two really stands out. This offbeat tone serves as the basis for the rest of the instruments in this song. There are plenty of technological synths that stand out from the rest of the album, straying the line between melodic and simply rhythmic. It gives the song a unique feeling that works well with the bouncy bassline. Oh, and speaking of basslines, there’s another bass to this song, specifically a guitar strumming beneath the rest. That guitar serves as the main source of energy for the rest of the song.

 

The most memorable melody is the one that appears on either end of the build-up from nothing (which I always will inevitably talk about). It always makes me want to swing my arms around in circles for some reason. I can be a bit strange with my relationship between music and dancing sometimes. There’s plenty of other instruments and melodies that help flesh out the song a bit more, but these are the ones I felt needed the most highlighting.

 

And, as per usual, we have the build-up from nothing that I love Andy Hunter so much for. This is my second favorite on the album just after Alive. Here at the midpoint of the song, all the energy fades away except for one arp and a variety of strings that dance up and down in pitch for the first few seconds. They disappear in favor for the best moment of Kate’s vocals in the entire album. No lyrics, just beauty rising up and down as everything around her builds back up towards the energy that was lost. There’s a subtle melody in there that I like if I’m paying close enough attention. Otherwise it gets lost in the slightly syncopated drumbeat that makes itself present for this particular section of the song. Everything here works together nearly perfectly. Which is why this build-up is the second best on the album. Only thing holding it back from the top spot is that Alive’s build-up actually is perfect.

 

The lyrics in this one are a bit odd. First verse seems to make repeated references to the Garden of Eden, the original paradise that God had created before the fall of mankind. It might also represent the afterlife in heaven which is likely a paradise similar to the Garden. Could possibly just be the highest moments in life on Earth as one receives those glimpses of heavenlike beauties here in the present. It’s a bit cryptic and tricky to figure out but it is certainly referencing some sort of paradise and the wonderful life that arises from it. The second verse focuses deeper on the overwhelming desire to partake in this paradise, though it really almost sounds like a drug addiction… that’s the second time this album. Huh.

 

Well in an effort to make sure not to end this review on a druggy note. Let’s take a look at the chorus. Real simple stuff there. Not too much to talk about. There’s a lot of talk of unity either among an entire congregation of people or between two particular people (man and God I presume?). In the past, I’ve often opted for the former interpretation, but the second option is suddenly becoming equally likely in my view. Not really sure how to look at the song now. Well except for the fact that it’s a solid song. It’s quite a solid song. There. I said it. End Review.

 

Conclusion: Comparatively speaking, Life started out rough, but then it got better. You could interpret that as a statement on the actual life we’re living right now, but it works for this album too. Of course, I said comparatively as the “rough” in this case was Open My Eyes, which in reality is a good song. It’s just that everything that followed was clearly superior. Could the album have been improved if Open My Eyes was dropped? Maybe. But it doesn’t need much improving anyways as this proves to be the nostalgic highlight of Andy Hunter’s entire career for me. Songs like Alive and Lifelight definitely hold a special place in Andy Hunter’s discography for me as they’re my first and favorite songs from his. Maybe it’s just my nostalgic bias, but this was his peak in my opinion. Oh, he has plenty more good music to review later, but it doesn’t get quite as good as this one.

 

Final Score: (8.5/10)

Mind.in.a.box – Crossroads (2007 album)

Album links

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

Soundcloud: n/a

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/4ttiMmV56iQRKSuCOhSiPl?si=ADufv63kRtKTFT8hJhQ_mQ

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLv8kgGG6wGqRAE8yajRvCTEaWfkYIuL04

 

 

 

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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.

 

Black.

 

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)

Mind.in.a.box – Dreamweb (2005 album)

Album links

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

Soundcloud: n/a

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/3wJLkm6XJEwfoGfN8a7To7?si=RDIKci-cR8mnFF8VnzWVAg

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_nsZvd85DCMrxWiwsIMpp-BPQO91jb4tFI

 

 

 

I̸̧̪̱̻̬̟̜̖̓́̍̃ṋ̵̨̬͓͔͚̣̞͖̘̒̇̓̓̈́̊̒̿̍̄̈̕͝͝ͅt̶͓̖̠̮̜̙̓r̵̨̞̹͕̝͎̜͓̥̩̤͔̈̑̑͒̔̀͐̈͊̈́̽̎ō̷̝͕̗͇̦̪̰̩̩͎̖̱̳̒͆͘d̵̢̑͌̋͋̏̐̔͗̽̽͒̑͒͜͠͝ụ̴͔͎̺̜̗͍̖͔̹̟̞̥͙̤̆̇̾̃̆̄̐̔͆̂͘͝͝ĉ̴̡̛̳̟̦͈̮͇͉̭̫͉̦͈̀̃̿͌͋͒̑̋̂̉͘̚̚t̵̢̧̛̯̟͕͙̖̪̻̩̗́̾͗̐̈͑̋͑͋͆̓̾̋̂ͅi̵̛̻͎̤̣̝̣̇̋̄͊̑͑̌͌͜͝͠ó̵̧̟͒͆̈̊̋̀̓̽͘͠͝ň̵̞̣̘̩̣͔̗̣̝̪͉̲̠̰͂̏̉͊̏̆͐͐̊̋̆͐͠: ……………………………………………………………………….

 

 

 

Last time on Mind.in.a.box: An agent is tasked with following a hacker, hoping to eventually capture his target before the man teams up with a mysterious woman whose identity and purpose currently remain obscured from our knowledge. All the while, he contemplates his past, worrying about the memories that seem to have become hazy within his mind. And he worries that the future may be equally hazy, as change looms on the horizon. Conflict arises within his mind. Will he be able to embrace the change that seems inevitable? Will it crush him? Is there any possible way to avoid it? Can he prevent himself from falling into a world of chaos, trapped in a feeling of aloneness as the world grows ever more distant? A world in which he can no longer trust what is real?

 

No.

 

For the hacker has escaped the agent’s clutches. He has found a way to the other side. He has entered an entirely different reality.

 

He has entered the Dreamweb.

 

And nothing will ever be the same again.

 

So the agent flees…

 

Mind.in.a.box – Tape Evidence (7.5): Hopefully, my recap isn’t too redundant, as Tape Evidence somewhat reviews past events as well. It’s not as clearly stated as the paragraph I typed up, but the recap definitely has a unique style that a paragraph can’t capture, even if it’s less thorough. Half of the albums in the Mind.in.a.box discography following Lost Alone start out with a reminder of where our agent currently finds himself on his mind-bending journey. There are a couple of exceptions (Revelations is too vague, R.E.T.R.O. isn’t canon, and Broken Legacies… well it’s best not to talk of Broken Legacies right now). I’m planning on giving my own little recap myself in future Mind.in.a.box reviews, giving a clearer outlook to where the story has left off. This song, for example, takes us to a room where the agent is currently staying. His sleep is suffering. His dreams haunt him. He hazily remembers the events of Lost Alone but his memory is proving hazier more and more as time goes on. There must be something wrong with his head. Natural deterioration? Or more? Who can he really trust?

 

And then he receives a mysterious package at the doorstep. The person who’d left it seems to have vanished without a trace, leaving only their evidence behind. The agent plays the tape, finding it filled with recordings of his calls to his employer as he lost the trace on the hacker that had disappeared that fateful evening…

 

Serving mostly as a recap of past events, this song doesn’t really add much new information to the story at hand. If anything, it only brings us more questions. What’s in the agent’s head? Why have his dreams begun to haunt him more and more? And who left the tape on his doorstep.

 

Well, regardless of the answers to these questions, I must admire the way this song integrates the world around our agent into the song. He doesn’t just tell narrate the events that happen to him. You can hear his emotional state in the music itself: the unsettling feeling as he describes his dreams, the thunder and pounding in his head as he cautiously approaches his door wondering who could possibly approach him at this hour. The mysterious arp and bassline that plays as he relistens to the tape depicting the events of the last album and questions begin to arise in his mind. The foley in the scene involving the tape (doorbell, door opening and closing, and inserting the tape into a player), also is a nice touch.

 

But most interestingly, I also enjoy the way that this song integrates past songs from Lost Alone within the song. There’s the line from Leave, “This is not what I wanted,” providing some continuity for the agent’s arc. And when the agent listens to the tape, you can here actual clips from Forever Gone depicting the agent’s panic as he loses the hacker. Interestingly, the song also features clips from Certainty, the next song on the album as a vocal sample during the first portion of the song and as the agent falls asleep with his headphones on. Speaking of the next song on the album…

 

Mind.in.a.box – Certainty (7.75): Certainty is a solid introduction into the more musical tracks of Mind.in.a.box. It’s certainly not the best song we’ve heard from him so far. Nor is it the best song on the album, but it doesn’t really have any weaknesses either. It has a slightly gritty technological vibe with a bassline made entirely of sixteenth notes and some simplistic melodies for texture. Most of all it has several different voices distorted to create reflect the conflict with in our protagonist’s mind

 

Certainty has left the agent. His world has begun to fall apart from the inside out. His questions have been burning within him for far too long and he has begun to wonder if they’ll ever be answered. He tries to find peace in his lack of knowledge, but the burning desire for his questions still remain. He no longer cares of anything else but certainty, but absolute certainty is unobtainable. And so, his world begins to shatter. He desperately clings to anything he can find in his life that he can hold trust in before his mind breaks from the pressure of the chaos. But if he can no longer trust his own mind, how can he trust anyone else?

 

I can somewhat relate. I’ve never had it quite as hard as this agent, but the unreachable desire for certainty has somewhat bothered me from time to time. In the past, I’ve felt like I need to figure out how exactly this world works, how to figure out my place in it and how to find that perfect state of peace. I’ve slowly begun to discover that I’m better off accepting that I’ll never fully know the answers and that it’s best if I take life as it comes to me instead of overwhelming myself for the perfect meaning of life. I’m not fully certain if perfection exists. Maybe that’s the point. I haven’t fully overcome this struggle. Sometimes I regress back into the plague of trying to find out exactly where I belong. But it’s never permanent. It’s important to remember that there will always be days in the future when one is certain enough in themselves that they don’t need to unravel the exact nature of the universe.

 

Then again, that might be most days for some people. I’ve brought this struggle upon myself.

 

Mind.in.a.box – Lament for Lost Dreams (9): This is the first song to directly confront the agent’s memory loss. It was hinted at in Falling from the last album, but that was a bit more vague. Lament for Lost Dreams goes a bit more into detail, expanding not only on the memory loss introduced in Falling but also of the dreams that seem to be plaguing the agent more and more as this album progresses (It is called Dreamweb after all). As much as the agent tries to recall the memories of his past, it remains hidden, obscuring the path he’d taken. It leaves a deep hole in his identity and he doesn’t quite feel like himself as he is no longer certain that he is his true self. But what I love most about this song is that he doesn’t let it destroy him. Oh, sure he definitely despairs for some time. Having a haunted past that leaves you uncertain of who you are isn’t exactly a pleasant experience. But he doesn’t let his past (or lack thereof) consume him. Instead he looks to the future, for there are choices, crossroads up ahead that he must face. And if he’s continually consumed by his past, he might not have the clarity of mind to make the right decision… if there is one…

 

This song definitely stands out in its verses. I know it’s not much but focusing on a solitary bassline (though it has drums and a synth in the second verse but they’re so subtle I didn’t even notice the first time) as the agent attempts to confront his past definitely allows some true focus on the torment and resignation in the agent’s mind. And the simplistic experience doubles up it’s purpose by allowing the arp filled chorus to stand out, both by giving a slight bit of variety to the music as well as solid driving drumbeat to demonstrate how the agent tackles the path ahead of him. He walks forward, leaving the effigy of who we was behind.

 

All that matters are the crossroads ahead.

 

Mind.in.a.box – Machine Run (9): Machine Run is certainly the most memorable track from the album and therefore I find it to be one of the best. Part of this comes from its unique feeling from the rest of the songs to the album. Instead of just devoting itself to a purely technological vibe. Machine Run goes ahead and brings some rock influence into the mix right at the beginning with a heavy hitting guitar intro. The rest of the song has a fantastic feeling to it too. The sheer variety that we see in this track is phenomenal. Their song continually flips back and forth between the grittier rock vibe (where the agent stares ahead at the routine to which he’s committed himself) and the slightly calmer arpeggio forced portions with cleaner vocals (focusing on his desire to escape the routine as he contemplates the futility of what this routine will do to him).

 

Yeah, I summarized those lyrics up pretty well while describing the two different vibes that this album gives us, but that’s no reason to stop there. The agent is beginning to take a step back and look at the situation he’s found himself in: working with a mysterious employer to find a mysterious man while his memories escape him entirely. He attempts to suffocate his nightmares by fully dedicating himself to his work, but what if, he suffocates his own individuality in the process. Is it truly better to ignore the thoughts that plague him, letting them fester inside as he distracts himself? To dampen his emotions as he chases unreachable peace?

 

Well, by my tone, it’s pretty clear that my opinion is no, but at this point in his life, it’s seems to be difficult for the agent to see what path he must choose. Yes, he could face his nightmares head on, regardless of how disturbing he might find the blurry images of his past, but he doesn’t seem to be at a point in his life where he feels he can face them. He’ll have to eventually. Without doing so he’ll never be able to redefine himself. Waiting any longer will extend his suffering, but for now he waits.

 

For now, he runs.

 

Mind.in.a.box – Loyalty (6.5):  This song serves as a partner to You Will See from the last album, so it also runs the risk of going down the bad path of focusing on the bad aspects of love. And if you read last Ashbury Heights review, you can tell that this could be a big problem as I’m kind of sick of the concept. Of course, the relationship in Mind.in.a.box is much healthier than the ones depicted in Ashbury Heights’ debut. Then again, that’s not saying much.

 

This one doesn’t do quite as well as You Will See. Where You Will See was about overcoming the fallout of a relationship, Loyalty is about looking back on the relationship and putting all of the blame on the other party, which is an unhealthy way of moving on. Better than not moving on at all, but there’s no learning experience here. No strive for possible change. Instead, here’s focus on how the agent used to receive joy from the relationship, but now that his love has broken his heart, he has fallen lower than ever. The holes in his mind grow more painful every passing day.

 

Perhaps, I’m being too harsh. Giving the agent the benefit of the doubt perhaps his love had truly been problematic and he’s only just now realizing the flaws in their past relationship. The trust he had has evaporate and now he must move on. Credit where credit is due, there is a hint of determination in the second verse in which he determines that he won’t let the tragedy that has occurred destroy him. He will move on and look forward to overcoming his struggles. This is admirable, but it’s not done nearly as well as in You Will See.

 

Unfortunately, the music is rather bland too. There’s a simple bassline and arp, but they don’t do much of interest. The melody at the end is even more unremarkable. Probably the blandest melody I’ve heard in a while. There’s a portion with the guitar that’s pretty good, but it’s not enough to save the song (and pales in comparison to Machine Run). Overall, it might be over average as far as ratings go, but that’s pretty under average for the expectations I have of Mind.in.a.box

 

Mind.in.a.box – Sun & Storm (7.75): After the slower more plodding (Ignore the fact that the first line in this song has that very adjective in it) feel of Loyalty, the more upbeat tone of Sun & Storm is very well received. The technological drive I love from Mind.ina.box has returned. The bass and arp join forces in this one, forming on single entity. It works better than you’d think. Leaves some nice room for the ominous stabs as that occur every four beats as well as some more beautiful melodies that provide an interesting contrast to the rest of the song (which I find to be much harsher). The last third of every verse also features a piano which is absolutely lovely. And there’s also a synth that’s really just a highly distorted iteration of the chorus which I think is absolutely masterful.

 

As for the lyrics, Sun & Storm continues the development of the agent’s lost memories. Or more accurately, he abandons those memories and reaches forward into the future. A sequel to Lament of Lost Dreams if you will. Unfortunately for him, his struggles aren’t over as soon as he casts aside these tortuous dreams. The world still begins to collapse around him as he continues down the path for a future of freedom. His will begins to shatter as everything changes around him. Pleasure is now pain. Those he knew are spiteful to him for some reason. He can’t seem to escape his past as easily as he’d originally thought. Wherever he goes, it’s there lurking in the back of his mind. Whatever he does, it’s hiding in the shadows of his subconscious. His struggles haven’t fully disappeared. Perhaps they never will. They’ll always be there, but without working to overcome it, he will resign to suffering.

 

An interesting side note in the second verse as there appears to be some new information here regarding a person who’d originally came into the agent’s life providing a small sense of security of the chaos. But something went wrong. They fell to the darkness. The agent still stayed but suffered because of it.

 

It’s very well possible that the person in question could be the lost love… but I have the sneaking suspicion it’s someone else the agent knows…

 

Mind.in.a.box – Out of Time (8.25): This song isn’t too particularly musically interesting, or more accurately, the lyrics are so interesting I don’t want to spend much time with the music because there just isn’t enough to say in comparison. It’s got your general Mind.in.a.box vibe with a heavy focus on layers upon layers of arps organized in a fashion that gives off a technological environment. But that’s enough of that. This song has a story to tell.

 

The state of being out of time is quite a mind-bending concept. As simple as it sounds on the surface, time has always been a constant force in our lives. And if we were to slip out from under time’s grasp, then could we even comprehend what we’ve found beyond? With such a strange concept, this ends up being one of the more mysterious songs on the album. It took me a few listens before I made a breakthrough on what this song represents within the story, but it honestly should have been obvious from the get-go.

 

Out of Time is a sequel to Forever Gone.

 

When we last left off in Forever Gone, the agent had found our hacker sprawled out on the floor. He and his employer suspected the man had crossed to the other side, into The Dreamweb itself. The hacker has broken his mind down into code, allowing him to live in his impossible virtual world of the Dreamweb, claimed to be forever gone. Gone into a world that cannot be found.

 

And now, as the agent continues to ponder the events of that evening. As he questions where the hacker has gone and how the Dreamweb works, perhaps wishing to escape himself, we can still hear the voice of the hacker speaking through the Dreamweb. The Dreamweb is out of time. It’s where our hacker resides out of reach of the agent and his employer but it’s as much of a prison as an escape. One can’t help but notice that he’s lost alone in this new prison of his. The Dreamweb isn’t quite easy to navigate as the hacker had planned. He’d likely entered in haphazardly when he realized that he was being traced in the last album.

 

Of course, it’s also very well possible that the “he” in this song is the agent himself. That the hacker is speaking through the Dreamweb about an inevitably. Perhaps the agent himself will enter the Dreamweb in due time…

 

Mind.in.a.box – Dead End (9.25): our agent has been watching for this mysterious woman for a while now. She was last seen speaking to the hacker months ago and now the agent and his employer have found a lead that she’ll be at this club this evening. Who is the informant? We don’t know yet. Check back later. But that doesn’t matter, for as the agent continues observing the people entering the club, he begins to realize that they’re beyond the time that the informant said she’d be here.

 

So he goes in.

 

In a hectic fury, the agent pushes his way into the club, desperate to find this woman. Following the events of Forever Gone, she has become the only lead on what could have possibly happened to the hacker and she may just be the key to figuring out how the employer can find a way into the Dreamweb to apprehend the man. The agent keeps his mind clear and his focus straight. Nothing matters but the target. Nothing matters but capturing her and bringing her in. Nothing matters except the music…

 

The music?

 

A chaotic drumbeat begins to seep away at his mind. He tries to break away. He has to find her. She is the only thing that matters right now to the mission. She’s the only lead. But the music? A bassline roars into his mind. It overwhelms his thoughts. A constant distraction from his goal. His goal. His goal is right there. He can see his target in front of him right within his grasp. He approaches her but cannot reach her. He cannot reach past the music. The music? Arpeggiated progressions flow into his mind. Reality begins to distort around him. He begins to see visions of another place, another realm? An endless corridor reaching up into the sky. Rain falls down on his face despite the fact that he’s indoors. Where is she? The lead? There’s no one there. There’s nothing there. The music overwhelms our agent…

 

He blacks out.

 

Mind.in.a.box – The Dream (7.75): I don’t know if you’ve caught onto this by now, but dreams play a big role in this chapter of the Mind.in.a.box story (The title of the album is Dreamweb after all). After seeing the hacker escape into a dream of his own, the agent has found that his own dreams have begun to haunt him. Especially after the events of the last song. All of this comes to a head in this song, The Dream.

 

The song definitely has a great eerie vibe at the beginning. Only introducing slight elements. One simple melody echoing from the shadows. One ominous bassline creeping in from the shadows. And a simple three kicks with the occasional snare slowly echoing through the night providing a nice plodding feel to the song. Here, the agent reflects on his current state of mind. His dreams have haunted him to the point where he can no longer tell if the few memories that remain are real.

 

And then a voice invades his mind: “You fell asleep and now you’re mine… Just let go and embrace your dream…” The agent’s supposed mental deterioration isn’t natural. It’s the cause of someone who seems to have infected the man’s mind. Someone who claims to have taken control of the agent’s dreams. Someone who has been tormenting the agent for some time now, manipulating reality before his very eyes. The agent pleas in response to this voice, desperate for he has been broken by these dreams. He no longer knows who he is.

 

The song begins to develop from this point onwards, adding in some arps and quickening the drumbeat to new levels as the agent continues to converse with the voice in his head, but when the beat takes on a full four-on-the-floor pattern, the voice in the agent’s head takes over the song completely. The mysterious voice gloats on how much the agent’s world has been distorted. Anything he had before his mind had been invaded has since disappeared. He finds himself lost in a confusing world in which he can trust no one, not even his own mind. His past has been taken away from him and so it must be left behind.

 

The agent responds as the song gives more focus on the arps. As the voice says, the agent is surely lost. He may have found his place in the present for now, but something about this life he’s living feels wrong. Almost as if the missing past and the present don’t match up. The agent had wallowed in his pain in the past as he’d wandered the streets of life, searching for a place for his mind to call home. But now, when faced with the dream that has been residing in the back of his mind, he gives in to the voice. He embraces the dream instead of the reality before him.

 

But whose to say the dream isn’t reality as well?

 

Mind.in.a.box – Reflections (8.75): The story of the agent’s search for the hacker and his Dreamweb (along with the search for his own identity) has gotten quite complicated as of late. The agent’s thoughts and dreams have been scattered across this album in a seemingly orderly pattern, but in reality, we’ve been viewing this chapter in the Mind.in.a.box story nonchronologically. We may have started this chapter at Tape Evidence, but we should really perhaps it would be best to take a step back and observe the events that led up to Dead End and the aftermath of the hallucinations and dreams that overtook him that evening. We’ll need to go deeply into the story presented so far in this album in order to make sense of the narrative. Something that this song does quite well. But before we dive into the bigger picture, we’ll have to start at the beginning…

 

Following the disappearance of the hacker, it has taken nine months to finally find a lead on how he switched over into the Dreamweb. The woman who’d he’d spoken to that evening of his disappearance is the only possible lead that they have. It’s only when the agent’s employer (who from now on shall be referred to as White as he has finally been named) finds an informant that knows of the woman’s location that they’re able to finally make some headway.

 

Queue the events of Dead End.  The agent sets up his position outside the club late evening on October 22. And after haphazardly entering the club, he experiences a song like no other. A song that digs into his brain making him envision another world before stealing his consciousness away from him. He awakens in a gutter early morning, disconnected from his employer and his mind succumbing to a state of eternal confusion. It is then that the dreams begin to truly infect his mind. All thanks to the music at the club.

 

Thankfully, despite being disconnected from his employer, he finds White shortly after awakening. Not only do we get a name reveal (technically a codename but it’s still significant) from the employer, he makes a physical appearance as well, an unusual event according to the agent. Further piquing my interest is the tape the agent is given. This slightly mirrors Tape Evidence, though it should be noted that this is a different tape. Unless of course one method of receiving the tape only occurred in his imagination. It’s not like his mind is the most trustworthy at the moment.

 

Well, if it is a different tape, then one must wonder what’s on this one. Furthermore, one must wonder exactly who this person in the club was, the informant from earlier perhaps (can he be trusted?).  A thought crosses my mind though it might not have crossed the agent’s yet. Was the club perhaps a trap?  Could the informant possibly be allied with the hacker and the agent’s female target? Was the music at the club specifically played in order for these people to get into the agent’s dreams? Of course, that goes under the assumption that the dreams are coming from the hacker’s allies. They could be very well be coming from another party… I believe it would likely have to be someone who knows a thing or two about the Dreamweb as the dreams are likely connected to the reality the hacker had escaped into.

 

As the dreams continue to plague him, the agent returns to his home, exhausted from the life changing events that had occurred last evening. He tries to fall asleep, but the music is still there, pulsing in the back of his mind. He can feel them in his head. Interestingly, at this point in the song, it isn’t the ominous pulsing bass from Dead End that is playing in his head, but the guitar from Machine Run perhaps this is the point in time that the agent introspects on the endless routine that he finds himself trapped in. Should he escape it or succumb to it? Impossible to tell at this point.

 

As the song ends the agent finally falls into a deep sleep. Perhaps when he wakes up, there will be a tape on his doorstep…

 

Mind.in.a.box – Between Worlds (7.5): Not really too much to say about this track musically, I haven’t perhaps doing the best at paying attention not the instrumental parts in this album, most because of how story-heavy it is. There’s simply not enough time to do so. This one does have a few good melodies here and there, but I don’t think any of it is significant enough to step away from talking about the narrative.

 

The agent’s exhaustion continues as we approach the end of this chapter with this penultimate song. Now that Reflections has caught us all up on the events of October 22-23, it’s time to explore further where this leaves the agent as he’s begun to accept his dream (see two tracks ago in The Dream), he’s found himself suspended between two worlds. The reality he’s lived in for his entire life, and the Dreamweb of the hacker’s own invention. And both worlds are changing constantly, shifting the agent’s perspective as he struggles to find a place that feels right despite the wholes in his memories (Has his mind been wiped?).

 

As the agent frantically searches his mind, trying to figure out what went wrong to lead his to this predicament, he finds himself suspended between two worlds. Will he have to choose his place between the two worlds to finally find peace?

 

It seems he is at a Crossroads

 

Mind.in.a.box – Escape (7.75): While the dreams of our agent have remained central to the conflict of this chapter, there is another underlying conflict burning in the background. And as the last few songs have begun to wrap up the conflict with his haunting dreams (though permanent resolution is still distant), we can take a closer focus on another struggle the agent has been having. Shall he stay where he is, committed to the routine of his life working with White to seek out the hacker in the Dreamweb? Or shall he try to break free from the machine he’s been running for? Is it time to run from the machine itself?

 

The agent has a burning desire to reach out for a greater meaning. He’s felt lost in this city for far too long and still hasn’t found a place to rest his mind. A place where he can finally feel comfortable as the person he is. A place where he can find the person he is. He desires an escape from the rain that he’s envision falling from the sky ever since he’d heard that music in the club. The music that’s been plaguing his mind ever since. If only he could find a place where he can find peace…

 

But instead, he finds himself trapped in his routine. He merely follows White’s orders as they attempt to track the hacker and his Dreamweb. But as the chase drags on and becomes more and more complicated, more and more taxing, the agent has found himself sacrificing his own self, his own identity. Perhaps that is why he’s begun losing his memories. I’m not saying that his memories naturally disappeared due to this overtaxing endeavor. If the hacker can escape into an alternate reality such as the Dreamweb, then it’s not out of the question that one could pick and choose which memories to keep, and which ones to remove. What if the agent could choose to remove those memories? What if there was a way to manually extract any distracting thoughts of the past, allowing the agent to concentrate solely on his present mission? What memories could have haunted him to the point where he had to choose to remove them in order to focus on his mission?

 

Of course, who’s to say the agent was the one to make that choice…

 

To be continued…

 

Conclusion: I wasn’t able to go as in depth with the music in this album as I had in Lost Alone as the narrative really took up a large percentage of the review. Overall, I’d say this album was better than Lost Alone as far as music goes. Very few of the songs on Lost Alone stood out with their music (Walking is an exception). Here, however, several of the songs have a unique feeling to them as Mind.in.a.box hones his craft. I was able to sneak little bits and pieces in there as there are some points where the music is outstanding like in Machine Run, or absolutely integral to the story like in Dead End. But in the end, the narrative really overtook this review quickly as the agent chased the people involved with the Dreamweb as well as the truth in his own mind.

 

Speaking of the narrative, Dreamweb definitely kicks the storytelling up several notches above Lost Alone. The plot thickens greatly as the agent finds himself torn in several different directions. He’s torn between his past and his present as his lack of memory leaves him unsure of who he really is. He’s torn between different realities as he begins to have visions following his experience at the club in Dead End. He’s torn between the choice between sticking to the routine he knows, or breaking free from it, abandoning the little he knows in this world for the chance of finding peace.

 

He finds himself at a Crossroads. He must make a choice.

 

Final Score: (8/10)

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)