Saturday, 2 March 2013

Mister Lies - Mowgli - Album Review [2nd March 2013]

[2013.03.02] Tom Hollingworth, for NARC Magazine.

As the final track of Mister Lies’ first full LP, Mowgli, expires in swirling looping motifs, and reaching (but inaudible) vocal samples, this new set of music from Chicago-based musician Nick Zanca has left me optimistic and refreshed. The album title refers to the name of the feral child in Kipling’s The Jungle Book, and, along with the cover-image (a cosy cub shown protected by hands) we are put in mind of nature and nurture. This record is the wealth grown of such parenting and a testiment to the constructive aspects of this humanity.

The opening track, Ashore, finds a minimalist beat from qwerty ratatats and stretched guitar harmonics, and steadily washes us onto the island. Zanca paints the gentle nature moving in amongst the trees through short flute melodies, whilst hinting at a potentially penetrating sky above, shown through carefully placed reversed cymbals and triggered clicks. He then unleashes us into the moonlight of the glade with suspended synth sprays. Without pause, he expands our tour through Dionysian and brings us to the dance, with a society of syncopated steps and our first vocal samples, espousing a necessary behaviour for growth: ‘Now the time has come, need to stand up and be true.’ Perhaps we are witnessing our composer responding to such a command, in the ambition of this fuller release.

His pseudonym, adopted to express the importance of imagination over naturalism in his music, is dissolved in its relevance here. The construction of Mowgli’s narrative suggests a maturity of understanding, placing nature itself as more imaginative than any individual’s construction of lies. Although the ambient landscaping of his Hidden Neighbors EP and the sentimentalised rights-of-passage tracks on the Mass EP (his collaborative effort with Rafa Alvarez) contribute positively, this new lengthier study allows Zanca the freedom to bravely take on more varied emotions through multiple adventures in a larger space.

Where as other peers in such sonics are drawn to compose testaments to more claustrophobic environments, nurturing cynical responses in their albums (often created in the roar of city-living,) Zanca provides a hope rarely celebrated in these sounds. He created this album remotely, based up in the hills of Vermont, and he has channelled the peacefulness of this retreat into instrumentals, confidently embracing imagination, wise to the knowledge that with experience, there is the possibility of growth. Mowgli is truly encouraging.

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