Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Mistabishi - Drop - Review

Music by Jamie Pullen, produced by Jamie Pullen and published by Hospital Records.

When you were standing in the office, staring blankly at the sheets of A4 paper relentlessly dropping into the tray, did you feel musically inspired? Mistabishi did, and he didn’t stop there, producing probably one of the best drum and bass albums this year.

Making his debut on Hospital Records in the later part of 2007 with the piano-led rave ‘No Matter What’, Mistabishi quickly gained critical acclaim, in particular from radio one’s Zane Lowe, Jo Whiley and Annie Mac. Now returning with his first studio album, the drum and bass innovator has generated a rising band of followers and has been nominated for the ‘Best Newcomer Award’ at the Drum & Bass Arena Awards 2009.

I first discovered Mistabishi the same way most casual drum and bass enthusiasts would have done; through the radio one promotion of his tune ‘Printer Jam’. A wonderfully inventive piece of music employing the whirrings and chirps of an ancient printer, the story goes that the song was created when the artist knew he was facing job loss and wanted to make use of his last few days in the office. Therefore he took his recording equipment in and sampled the sounds for his music, using the sonic by-product of the machinery to produce a pounding drum and bass anthem.

Of course with a song like ‘Printer Jam’ there is the danger that people will either dismiss it as a gimmick, or be disappointed when the other Mistabishi tracks do not have exactly the same ethos and feel. The ‘true’ drum and bass fans would mock the mainstream interest as a fad and Mistabishi would remain a favourite only to a select few. But this would only be a danger if the rest of Mistabishi’s tracks did not deliver the same level of ingenuity and passion, which happily is not the case.

Although pigeonholed as a drum and bass artist, Mistabishi demonstrates that he is not bound by genre with the vast array of styles and influences found on Drop. There certainly is a powerful drum and bass presence throughout the album, but even within that aspect there are differing facets. The grimy and gritty tones and beats of tracks like ‘Printer Jam’ and ‘Damage’ are contrasted by the ethereal synths and chilled feel of ‘Heaven’s Sake’ and ‘The View From Nowhere’. Breaking from the drum and bass mould Mistabishi dabbles in dub-step with relentless grinding of ‘White Collar Grime’ and ‘Wipe Your Tears’, the latter of which features a clever windscreen wiper sample. The use of trance-style piano riffs pummelling over the rhythms of ‘No Matter What’ demonstrates that even with his first hit track, Mistabishi is not content to churn out the expected, throwing off conformity from any aspect of his music.

Mistabishi has been described as the ‘Tyler Durden’ of drum and bass, a description that Drop supports very well. Although there are relaxed, ambient areas of the music, the album is laced with an unnerving edge, the feeling of violence and feral energy beneath the surface, which sometimes breaks through. In the same way that Fight Club’s protagonist eschews the mainstream material conformity proscribed for society, Mistabishi’s music seems to suggest a search for alternate meanings in a world that has been sold short by the vendors of greed and selfishness. Creativity brought on by the financial collapse is definitely a motivating factor Mistabishi, with Drop as the call to leave your office cubicle and find something that actually matters.

The only thing I don’t particularly like about this album, and it’s only a tiny little flaw, is that it has one of those extensive final tracks, made up mostly of noise in this case. Hidden tracks and silent gaps really annoy me, right from the days when I used to listen to Korn and had to skip the first twelve tracks on their album Follow The Leader to get to the music. On a practical level it wastes space on your hard-drive and MP3 player, which is just frustrating unless you have software to remove the gaps. Not a big deal really, I just would rather it wasn’t there.

Mistabishi’s Drop will not disappoint hardcore drum and bass enthusiasts or those enticed by hearing ‘Printer Jam’ in the mainstream setting either. Full of interesting and varied styles, the album speaks an ethical message on greed and materialism but without preaching or condescending. A unified collection of catchy tunes, Drop will get you on your feet and dancing in no time.

If you like this, then try: Badmarsh&Shri, Bloc Party, Chase & Status, Enter Shikari, Faithless, High Contrast, DJ Hype, Innerpartysystem, Pendulum, The Prodigy.

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