By Mike Dunn
In the current rock n’ roll landscape, it’s becoming a bit facile to slap the description “psych” on nearly anything that features any spacey atmospherics, repetitive chord progressions designed to induce a trance-like state, and affected vocals. Yet it’s even more rare to hear those elements used to such solid effect as they are on MIEN’s self-titled debut, along with classic flavours that reflect the early development of the style (most notably the use of sitar), which caused many a baby boomer to fall into the abyss of their black lights looking for “the bigger meaning of it all, man.”
Featuring members of The Black Angels, The Horror, Elephant Stone, and The Earlies, MIEN is a twisting constellation of electronic and organic tones that feel like being backlit, staring into the woods in 8-bit.
That presence brings MIEN to life immediately on “Earth Moon” which runs on a steady Rhodes piano groove with sitar flourishes over the top, driven by an uptempo hi-hat groove that stays consistent through the refrains, where a synth drops in with a flute-over-string section sound that easily conjures the instrumental sections in Zeppelin’s “Kashmir.” The vocals are pleasantly languid and subtle, bathed in echo, and the cascading build of “Hocus Pocus” rises over an overdriven bass riff under the beat drops in taking the chords in a more minor-key-than-expected direction. The payoff in the cut comes a minute in when spazzing synths hit fever pitches and blast in all different directions, making the simplicity in the song’s constant refrain, “I feel so high,” more an actual feeling than a statement. Elements of industrial rock are noticeable in some of the choices for drum and synth sounds, especially on “(I’m Tired Of) Western Shouting,” that hangs on a droning overdriven bassline with the chord changes implied by the instruments around it. It’s a cool move, and with the rounds of vocals coming in and out of it, before an acoustic break that drops back into the original feel.
MIEN has succeeded where so many bands are merely trying lately: crafting a record that requires being heard from beginning to end, full of wild freakouts. It’s the kind of music that ought to accompany the big, weird party where everyone’s maybe pretty sure they know where they are, swaying with the treetops in a zapping telescope of exploding stars.MIEN, Rocket Recordings