Introduction: First off, I want to comment on the album art. To my knowledge, there are two different album arts for IM The Supervisor. I honestly just chose the version that I could find the best quality image for, but if you’d rather look at some shroomed out version of Medusa (Hey, maybe that’s where Meduzz gets its name) holding an orb of some unknown origin or purpose, then go ahead and google it. I’m using this one.
Regardless of what album art I choose, I had taken a bit of an extended break from Infected Mushroom after Converting Vegetarians. After dominating two straight weeks with Infected Mushroom, it only felt fair to let other artists, whether or not I’ve reviewed them before, a chance to breathe new life into the Red Hat Reviews blog. This is also why it will likely be a while before you see the next Celldweller review. Three weeks dedicated to an artist that I like the least out of the ones I’ve reviewed so far is two weeks too many. I’ll get back to him and all of his other projects at a later date.
But this is not about Celldweller. This is about Infected Mushroom, my favorite psytrance duo of all time, despite the fact that they often deviate to other genres while keeping their style (variety is part of why I enjoy them). However, this time around they are sticking to the psytrance genre, though they have developed their sound design to match closer to Converting Vegetarians rather than the first three albums with a lot of focus and distorted vocal lines blending with the rest of the music.
And so, as we reintroduce Infected Mushroom to the world of Red Hat Reviews, we also enter a new era of Infected Mushroom themselves. Things are about to get interesting…
Infected Mushroom – IM the Supervisor (7): Starting off with the titular track of the album, I feel like now would be as good of a time as any to discuss the title: IM the Supervisor. Now you may be wondering if I’m suffering from a massive typo every time I type that title. Well, the thing is there’s a bit of a conflict on what the title actually is. Is this song short for “I am the supervisor,” a popularly held theory, or is it short for “instant message the supervisor,” which is my preferred theory. Why do I prefer said theory? Well you see, I distinctly remember seeing a story somewhere clarifying the confusion and telling the story behind the song in which Duvdev confirmed that it was instant message. Now I can’t find the story anywhere and half the sources are titled “IM” and the other half are titled “I’m.” Spotify is one of the ones to use the contraction, but they aren’t always perfect at getting titles right anyway (See Koan – Costline EP and the next song on this album, Ration Shamtio).
But that’s enough on the track’s title and lyrical content. In the end, such lyrics have very little influence on my opinion, as either way, they’re generally pretty meaningless, serving as just a few words for Duvdev to grumble as the song’s chorus. I personally prefer the portion where he’s screaming out “Dance with me,” as it’s a bit more energetic and there’s some great toms played in that section periodically. That’s a bit closer to the end of the song though… Perhaps I’ll review this song backwards… That’d be something different.
So, the middle portion of the song is what most closely matches the distorted feeling that I know Infected Mushroom best for. Not only is this where the main distorted lines with divided interpretation begin. It’s also home to many stretched lengthy notes that slide up and down in pitch. I hope you’ve enjoyed their brief occurrence her, because that’s not the last we’ll see of them in the album.
And lastly, I want to talk about the first minute of this song, before a single word is uttered. The odd two note bass rising and falling paired with sparing drumbeats interspersed set the tone immediately for the entire album. Much of it will be of this darker, deeply disturbing tone. The pianos to follow immediately reinforce that theme, serving as the most melodic instrument this song has to offer. Not my favorite part, as I’d originally gotten distracted by the toms that had played while the song begged us to dance (I obliged), but still important to setting up the mood for the rest of the album.
Infected Mushroom – Ratio Shmatio (7): And interestingly, the unconventional reviewing of methodology I started out with worked quite well into transitioning into the rest of the album. I’m not going to keep doing that though. There are some songs in this album, mainly Frog Machine, that must be reviewed front to back. This isn’t one of them, but I’m starting with that near silent arp in the intro anyway. Or at least silent in comparison to how loud it could be as quickly demonstrated by how it builds up over the next minute.
Building up instruments is a lot of what this song is about. The arp reaches its full potential quite soon, leaving room for other instruments to have the spotlight. I’m talking about the melodies, both the distorted glitchy synths that are a bit more infected than the other more natural instrument: the piano. And while not unique to Infected Mushroom, I think I prefer the piano. It compliments the rest of the song well and builds up gradually from its introduction a bit after 2 minutes in the song. Here, it blends in tune with the other distorted synth playing the same melody. However, not long after that, we have a build-up that involves shorter more repetitive notes from the piano, giving a dramatic flavor to everything around it.
Also, I lied, the arp does build up once more about three quarters into the song, resulting a great chord progression switch-up that serves as my favorite non-piano moment in the song. Would appreciate it more if it worked as a true finale, but there’s a few other squelchy instruments taking the spotlight from there on out. I haven’t much to say about them…
Oh, and before I forget, the song is called Ratio Shmatio, regardless of what Spotify says. I’m pretty sure that the intention is to make this rhyme as one does when mocking a particular word. Whether or not the song has some sort of ratio hidden within its progression and sound design is unclear to me, but I’m going to bet at no. It’s not like the title of the song is very respectful to that mathematical concept of ratios anyway.
Infected Mushroom & J. Viewz – Muse Breaks RMX (8): I shan’t spend long talking about the music in this one. There’s lots of odd things to remark about the vocals for this one. However, it’s also important to highlight the introduction and conclusion of this song. They’re roughly similar, bookending this song with mystery. These quiet moments are made up of soft simple melodies and some longer stretched notes that create the most chilling atmosphere this album has to offer. The conclusion also adds in some strings to create a sense beautiful finality. There isn’t nearly as much to say about the middle portion, but it does have a good drive and compares well to the “original” version of this song.
Oh yes, I put original in quotes? Why? Well, the trick is that the remix (or RMX) was released nearly a year before the original was. Makes sense? Of course it doesn’t, but somehow J.Views and Infected Mushroom got together and decided that Infected Mushroom should make an alternate version of J.Views’ unreleased song to promote the upcoming debut album for J.Views (fittingly titled Muse Breaks). Between this and the instant message fiasco, it’s clear that there are some ridiculous backstories to some of these songs. I’m not sure which version of Muse Breaks I prefer, as I discovered Infected Mushroom about five years ago and only got around to listening to J.views’ version… today… but both are definitely solid enough tracks. Perhaps I’ll review J.Views sometime so I can go more in depth to that version. Someday.
Well, J.views does definitely have an influence on this track through one third of the vocals. He sings the first verse of this song, though his vocals have been slightly, let’s say, shroomed (I like that term and I’m using it from now on). There’s another iteration of this verse sung by Duvdev midway through the song. He gives the song a feel that dances the line between classic Infected Mushroom and modern Infected Mushroom (this whole album seems to dance that line actually).
There’s also a female vocalist in there singing her own verse a couple of points in the song. And her part is definitely the most beautiful. I don’t usually prefer female vocals for singing along, but I think I may have to make an exception in this case. Unfortunately, I’m not able to figure out who she is. I know she likely isn’t Michelle Adamson from Blink and Illuminaughty off of Converting Vegetarians, as this voice is far more beautiful with very little edge to it. So I guess I’m a bit at a dead end trying to figure out who is responsible for the most beautiful part of the song. I’d love to credit her in the heading of this section of the review.
The lyrics of Muse Breaks are a bit strange and I’m unable to get a hundred percent deciphered analysis from what I have. I honestly am still not quite sure what a Muse Break is. But my guess it’s got to do with some sort of interruption to one’s artistic endeavors if I’m going to take it literally. There is a sense of inevitable sorrow in there as well. Rain is mentioned repeatedly and there’s a desperation to hold onto the sunny days, but it doesn’t sound like there’s much success in that endeavor. Instead, it feels like there’s an unsettling depression looming over this song. There is a struggle here though. It’s not over yet.
Infected Mushroom – Meduzz (7.75): Of course, if this was Mind.in.a.box, the album would begin to take a turn to tackle the existential dread and fight it with determination. But this is Infected Mushroom. Not saying we’re going to wallow it. I’m not reviewing Ashbury Heights right now either. Instead we’re going to take a more neutral vibe and check out a return to the funky groovy side of Infected Mushroom, with a funky bassline introduced almost immediately after some good shroomed up synths. There’s also notably a healthy variation on the drums as the song does change consistently letting all the kicks, snares, claps, and hats move in and out of the track as they please, even when it means all are absent.
But when, pray tell, would they all be absent? Well, I’ve got an answer for you, because that’s when the main theme of this song is introduced in the form of a stringed melody for this calmer portion. But as soon as the beat comes back in, you’d better be ready for a transformation. It’s the same melody but now it’s played on a guitar to give it a slightly harsher vibe rather than the dramatic strings. Both instruments represent the melody well and it’s a pleasure to listen to as the most memorable part of the song.
And that memorable main theme is definitely what makes this song stand out to me among most of the other instrumental songs on this album, not the most memorable mind you, but it’s close. And we can consider the fact that it’s more memorable than IM the Supervisor to make up for a certain other instrumental track beating the odds. But we’ve got a bit of time between now and then.
Infected Mushroom – Cities of the Future (8): After the instrumental break we had that is Meduzz, we’re onto the second most vocal oriented track (right behind Muse Breaks RMX), Cities of the Future. I want to say that this song has somewhat of a belchy groove, but I’m only making myself question how strangely disgusting my adjectives have become. It’s not like the instruments in this song are all that disgusting, just odd. But when you listen to Infected Mushroom, odd is what to expect. The distorted basslines serve as the most outstanding instrumental part of the song, though that could be because they are just about the only instruments. There’s thankfully some variety from moment to moment as well as some vocals to round out the track.
Speaking of vocals, let me attempt to do a tiny bit of lyrical analysis. For the most part, this song seems relatively straightforward, depicting the actions anyone would take upon the discovery of time travel (unless they’d rather try and change the past, but don’t even get me started on that mess). Make your way to the fantastical future and figure out how to bring the technological wonders back into your current life (and I’m not entirely sure if that strategy is scientifically sound either, but this is time travel we’re talking about).
And then there’s the bridge. Surprisingly after the shroomed vocals singing of Cities of the Future for so long, there is soon an introduction of some slightly cleaner vocals with a bit more meaning. Instead of just running to the cities of the future, the song now focuses on running away from the present to find one’s self, leaving all thoughts behind and fully creating a new self. And if you compare this theme to the titular section of the song, running to the city of the future seems to be about reaching for goals beyond our present state.
Or, alternatively, there could be a darker meaning to these lyrics. What if, instead, running to the future is no more than an escape. Look to the future and ignore the present. There’s nothing in the present worth concentrating on. All that matters is this imaginary uncertain future. And I’m not certain if that’s a swell way to live one’s life. I honestly don’t think ignoring the present sounds that fulfilling.
Honestly, I never quite realized this dichotomy until I took it upon myself to truly take an analytical look at these lyrics. This song is a bit more thought provoking than I thought it’d be.
Infected Mushroom – Horus the Chorus (6): Oh, we’re really pushing the shroomed vocals in here, are we? It’s not lyrical or anything. Far from it. It’s just the sound design. Not even the main standout element of this track. That credit goes to the bells that first appear at the two-minute mark. They’re an essential element that make this song as unique as it’s allowed to be.
And… uh… You know what? I really don’t have all that much to say about this one. It’s got a decent vibe but there’s just so little variety to talk about. It fades so easily into the back of my mind that it might as well not exist.
Infected Mushroom – Frog Machine (8.25): Frog Machine is a very odd one for me. Because of the interesting title and splendid variety that this song has it progresses, I ended up making narrative in my head for this song. If there was a music video, I know exactly what I’d want it to look like. I mean, what is a Frog Machine anyway? A machine that makes frogs? That’s what I’ve decided.
Though it’s less like a machine and more like a factory. Or maybe a very large complex machine, not too far off from one that makes chicken pies. Either way, it’s quite common knowledge that all frogs start as an egg. Well, that’s quite similar to what happens here, though instead of a frog laying the eggs. A machine pumps them out onto a conveyor belt, letting out round globs of an artificial blob of frog DNA known as frog fluid. Does it make scientific sense? Of course not! My vivid imagination (which isn’t drugged by the way, I’m just odd) wouldn’t necessarily match up with reality. I’m not a geneticist after all.
Anyway, these globs of frog fluid are where our journey begins. They are gathered by the bucketful (of a quite large bucket by the way) and transported across the frog machine factory. And due to the process of these frogs being genetically altered to expedite the aging process, it takes a mere minute for the eggs to be ready to hatch. But just in case, there’s a machine to manually hatch those eggs anyway, carefully holding the young enclosed tadpole in its grasp and piercing its thin outer shell, dropping the young not quite a frog yet far below…
Directly into the pipes, which is a lovely place for a tadpole to be, since it’s nice and wet and all. Not sure how the eggs survived this far without that water, but hey my imagination cuts corners. Let’s just assume that they’ve been sufficiently moistened up to this point. However, it’s important to note that it’s not exactly pure water running through these pipes. It’s got some Croak Juice in it. What is Croak Juice you ask? I just made it up, but basically it expedites the maturity of these tadpoles shooting them through twisting tubes. And by the time they reach the other end, these tadpoles have sprouted legs and are ready to traverse land.
But there’s one more step left, each of these frogs need one last shot of croak juice to truly reach their maturity as strong healthy frogs with an above average physique (for a frog). They hop down a conveyor set over a heating system to make sure these cold-blooded animals get the warmth they need to survive. They haven’t quite seen the sun yet, and I’m not sure if they ever will.
Because something goes wrong.
The final Croak Juice injector starts to clog, letting a few frogs go past without reaching peak maturity. This wouldn’t be too much of a problem as no machine is perfect, but this isn’t the end of the problems. For when the clog is cleared, the pressure of several too many doses of Croak Juice are injected into one frog which causes it to grow to a significant mutates size, towering over the rest of its amphibious friends.
Unfortunately for his amphibious friends, this guy has an appetite.
The Big One begins to eat its smaller equivalents as they are merely like bugs to its size. As it cannibalistically consuming the flesh of its brethren, the rest of the frogs understandably flee. Hopping at a tempo much faster than the Big One could handle. Unfortunately for them, the Big One can leap quite far. Far enough, to not only keep up with the stampede, but to trample those that lag behind as well.
The conveyors were not meant to support a frog of this magnitude. Its support begins to fracture, and the conveyor swings off course from where the frogs would finally be able to feel the sunshine on their wet slimy skin. Instead the conveyor hangs over the furnace, dropping all of its contents into the deadly fires below. The frogs scream as gravity leads them down towards their demise. Instantly melting as they reach the bottom.
But the Big One survives. Barely. While it had fallen into the flames, its body could withstand the heat long enough to climb its way out of hell. But it’s too late. This frog collapses, dying and decomposing as it gazes over mass graveyard of hundreds of batches of frogs gone wrong.
This has happened before.
So… I’m not sure where I was going with this? I made this up about five years ago so I’m not certain how it all goes. Probably something about the futility of society. I was just beginning to stretch my edgy wings around then, like I was ready to come out of Crow Factory or something. Wonder what that would sound like.
Infected Mushroom – Noon (5.75): Ok, we’re on the final stretch of songs for this album. Unfortunately, after Frog Machine, there aren’t really any more fantastic songs to point out. The problem is that, in this album, Infected Mushroom’s style began to stagnate for a brief bit. The vocals songs definitely had a lyrical advantage to gain their own identity. And Frog Machine was able to inspire some strange visualized music video in my head, despite the fact that there’s no music video to exist (this happens quite often, though I think this is the first time I’ve reviewed any outside of Mind.in.a.box’s entire discography).
But now we’re reviewing Noon. And I’m not incredibly impressed. It does take on a good funky vibe in some sections of the song, a decent bassline in the beginning and a few odd overly shroomed vocals introduced not long after. And there’s another half-decent melody to follow.
But other than that, I’ve got nothing to say to you about the rest of this song. One of the weakest on the album.
Infected Mushroom – Bombat (6.5): Bombat has a bit more to offer than Noon. It’s still one of the lesser songs on the album, but it creates a bit more of a creepy playful atmosphere than the previous song, making it stand out a bit more. Would it be better if it stuck to one mood and expanded upon a singular feeling rather than this dichotomy? Maybe, but the contrast works well enough with an odd minimalistic intro providing the creepy highlights and the incredibly shroomed vocals introduced about halfway through providing something a bit more playful. And then there’s the melody played throughout the rest of the second half, simple and dancing on the line between something enjoyably fun and something chillingly foreboding.
Personally, I think the best part of the song occurs midway through right before the shroomed vocals are introduced. This switch-up is what makes this song stand out among the rest of the songs that don’t stand out (don’t overthink it). There’s a new arp introduced about three minutes in and this arp serves as the heart of the song for me. As it dances up and down along the song’s scale, letting the bassline follow, the entire song feels like it’s a living breathing thing that continuously changes, at least for just minute. It makes a reappearance at the end of the track, ebding the song on a good note before we move on to the next.
Infected Mushroom – Stretched (7.75): Well, the last two songs were a bit underwhelming, but thankfully, there’s something a bit better to conclude this album. Not as good as Muse Breaks or Frog Machine mind you, but I’d put it just under Meduzz. They’re of quite similar quality and I am sensing some nostalgia from it, but it’s just not quite as memorable.
That being said, there is a decent amount of of variety stretched across this 7-minute conclusion. Throughout most of the track, this song maintains a good funky rhythm as the song is well supported by a consistently groovy drumbeat and bassline. However, everything else about this track changes. The short plucked melody establishes the song quite well with the way it matches the groovy backbone I’ve already described to what I’d consider to be the main melody played on what sounds like an electric guitar, backed by a distant choir that gives the whole scene a bit of tension. Following that there’s some vocals that continually cry out for beauty. The wish is granted with some beautiful piano and some returns of some of the previous instruments already introduced.
All in all, the song serves as a somehow relaxing conclusion to this album.
Conclusion: I know I’ve rated this album fairly similarly to the other Infected Mushroom albums so far, but it still feels like it’s a bit underwhelming. Converting Vegetarians is supposed to be introduce a new era of Infected Mushroom to the world and the following album just doesn’t feel all that new. Instead it feels as if Infected Mushroom’s style has slightly stagnated, still in need of an upheaval to make some unique songs worthy of their stature today. Maybe I’m just feeling a bit biased because the next couple of Infected Mushroom albums are my absolute favorites, defining the new post-Converting Vegetarians/pre-Converting Vegetarians II era. This album just can’t help but live in the shadows of where my love for Infected Mushroom originated.
But that’s a story for another review. Perhaps I’ll tell you more in a few weeks… or months… I haven’t decided yet when I’ll get back to this duo.
Final Score: (7.25/10)