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Mist - House

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Artist: Mist

Album: House

Label: Editions Mego

Review date: Oct. 6, 2011

Midwestern boys discover synthesizers, replicate sound of 70s kosmische, record prolifically. Read a review or article about the constellation of projects the members of Emeralds and their extended community are involved in, and this statement is usually the gist of the argument — compliment or criticism. It’s pithy, but there’s only one problem with it: it’s not true. As a narrative of where they come from musically, it’s inaccurate, and as a critique, it’s superficial. For one, the group themselves have more or less said so. Two, a few listens to Mist’s third full-length is all it takes to understand how the opening claim is easy to make, yet ultimately so off base.

Mist is John Elliot from Emeralds and fellow Ohioan Sam Goldberg, and yes, they both man bays of synths (mostly the analog keyboard variety). They favor tight, blistering sequencer work contrasted with gauzy chordal washes. They like to keep things mostly tonal but aren’t afraid of a little dissonance and a few dark minor key passages. Here is where the kosmische comparisons, with, say, Tangerine Dream, hold. But where early TD reveled in a kind of compositional drift (let’s call it cosmic bloat), Mist keep things lean. Even when tracks exceed 10 minutes, they don’t feel excessive. It’s more like the pair are just stretching out on a particular riff or feeling. And that feeling is certainly nothing about the cosmic. Maybe comic is more like it, what with titles like “Dead Occasion” and “Ovary Stunts.”

By saying what Mist are not, we get much closer to saying what they are. The album title gives a clue, but not in any direct way. This is definitely not house music (not a four-on-the-floor to be found anywhere), but it at least obliquely taps into that genre’s spirit and methods. The obsessive sequencer lines and glowing beds of smeared chords feel at once hedonistic and comforting. Mist’s music envelops you in a warm, safe sonic bath while at the same generating an endless feeling of forward motion, even without the relentless drum machines. More to the point is how Elliot and Goldberg have commandeered readily available electronic music instruments, just like the early House innovators, for their own pleasure-seeking ends. What they’ve come up with are compulsive tunes, which, if not wholly innovative, feel fresh and — crucially — of this era, not a bygone one.

By Matthew Wuethrich

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