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Mr. Mitch
Parallel Memories Tayyab Amin , November 28th, 2014 12:29

Turning points signal a change in direction, capturing the critical moment of deviation. For Mr. Mitch, and perhaps grime itself, Parallel Memories looks to be that turning point. But there's always some precursory context, some sort of build-up to that change-plot it on a graph and it's more sine wave than square. Grime and the way it's received has changed a lot since its emergence in the early 2000s. It was around then that Miles Mitchell began producing recreationally, before taking things up a level as Mr. Mitch around 2010, and he's been instigating change ever since.

Mitchell's evolution is one of exploration and boldness, stemming from the desire to do more. As a child, he found himself moving from Hip Hop eJay to FruityLoops after wanting to create rather than just loop. When artists such as Moony weren't getting the support he thought they deserved, Mitchell set up Gobstopper Records. In want of an instrumental grime night, he co-founded Boxed. Despite having set up production battle site Beatfighter a few years earlier, he went on to put out Peace Edits in the face of everyone's War Dubs, which stripped away the aggression of notable grime tracks, distilling them with patience and smoothness. As a designer for Gobstopper, he began to develop a taste for minimalism and subtlety, styles channeled through audio works leading up to the new album.

Previously, Mitchell's mentioned being influenced by crossover artists such as Hot Chip and Metronomy, and it's clear that his head isn't always submerged in the music of his contemporaries. 'The Night' is the kind of cosy roam through electronics that you'd expect to find on a Mount Kimbie record whereas 'Wandering Glaciers' is grime via Raster-Noton. It's one of the best things on the record (which is saying something), with pings zip-zagging up and down scales, honed over a kick sequence that lingers long after listening. 'Intense Faces' is the wide-eyed flipside to it, less ruminative, more innocent. The kind of place that doesn't try to call you back but colours your eyes vividly whilst you're there. Another sonic companion to those two tracks is the irresistibly endearing opener. 'Afternoon After', which sounds like slowly-falling digital snowflakes in spring.

A believer in grime's experimentalist nature, Mitchell aims wide on Parallel Memories: The album is sparse and its minimalism is round-edged the whole way through, yet the plethora of moods it induces–brooding to bittersweet–and its constantly meandering cadence are awe-inspiring. Take 'Bullion', the loudest (and nearly briefest) track on the record, a tempered clamour that bullies The Bug-style impact into howling atmospherics and light, ticking strings amidst distorted destruction. It sounds like a factory in the distance, crumbling at an earthquake's tremors. It sounds like the big boss' entrance theme, an antagonist that can't help be so furiously sinister. Like an enormous mechanical elephant hulking by the listener, rather than towards or against. It's followed by 'Denial'–a palette of isolated vocals, urgent pleas, mix-backs and inflating synths. It's a miraculous sequencing of songs, but Mitchell makes it happen. Later comes 'Fly Soup', the album cut that fits in most with Planet Mu's discography over the past few years, wrestling footwork into some sort of half-cooked state and leaving it to simmer. That said, there's certainly a whiff of Kuedo's Severant throughout Parallel Memories - both do a lot with relatively little tonally.

Emotional aspects aren't a new thing for grime, whether it's Ruff Sqwad instrumentals or resurgent RnG. Parallel Memories is the first cohesive album of it though, and there's a couple of RnG jams on there that imbue the record with its sparkle. One of which is 'Sweet Boy Code', a track that first surfaced as a Peace Edit of Dark0's 'Sweet Boy Pose'. Mitchell interpolates the original's sour synth progression into airy, crystalline bubbles that capture the beauty of a much needed moment alone. He throws in some 90s R&B vocals for good measure, sampling a few words from 'Last Night' to tell a story in the subtlest way (a far cry from the Az Yet song's approach). Those pitched-up instances combined with the vacuums between certain moments are quite simply stunning. One R&B boyband just isn't enough so I'm thankful 'Don't Leave' is based around Blackstreet, however it's a whole different beast. It's far more viscous than the other tracks despite how few layers it has, and the searing atmospherics that burst in towards the end spin the appeal off into full-blown desperation.

Parallel Memories sees Mitchell play with several ideas, and he recognises it doesn't all have to be about explicit impact, pop-influences or swelling structures. A handful of tunes opt for unfathomable rumbles and disconcerting uncertainty, keeping listeners at arm's length - one such piece is 'Hot Air', suffixing the album with stoic, shadowy stutters. The record never really ends, though. There's no sense of finality and that's fitting, as Parallel Memories is a part of Miles Mitchell's journey. He explains that each track is a snapshot of his own life on another plane, warped moments that seem to come from another reality. No matter how vivid memories are, they can never be distinct - their essence bleeds into each other, into other realities such as our own, surfacing in our experiences and actions. In asking the question, "What if the images I'm seeing are memories from an alternative version of me in a parallel dimension?", Mitchell has made these induced memories as real as memories from his own reality. He's then gone on to make them tangible through this album, an album that feels like more than a turning point in his own journey with plenty lying ahead.

There was a time when instrumental grime nights didn't exist, but now fires have been lit far outside of London. The sparseness in the works of Visionist or the oddball melodies of Slackk didn't connect with listener's understanding of grime, yet we're now seeing the genre expand into Jersey, noise and musique concréte. Releases of this music in an album format met with success seemed unexpected to say the least. When the Dark0 Peace Edit dropped in June, it wasn't met with universal acclaim as plenty of grime's faithful weren't on the same wavelength. The 'Take Time' Peace Edit came a couple of weeks later to slightly better reception amongst fans. Mr. Mitch dropped two EPs this year, one of them containing a track from 2010 that just wouldn't have made it back then. It doesn't just feel like Mitchell's works have led up to this point where Parallel Memories lies, it feels like grime itself has. It's more than just a turning point, it's an intersection where memories are solidified and worlds are united. Whatever reality we're in, it feels like Parallel Memories had to happen here, had to happen now. Here, at the end of 2014 with a new year ahead, Mr. Mitch has added the final few straws to break the camel's back, blowing grime wide open. The waters are clear and there's no telling what's on the horizon, but you can be damn sure I can't wait to find out.

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