The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Misty Conditions
D'zzzz Charlie Frame , November 12th, 2013 11:46

You've gotta hand it to Mike Paradinas. Ever the butterfly catcher, he's been a tireless purveyor of weird and interesting new beats for a good portion of his career. As labelhead of Planet µ Records he's always working, always listening out for the next esoteric curio to flutter past his eardrums. The slow but steady emergence of the Chicago footwork scene to wider attention is a case in point of a successful discovery gone global. As such, Paradinas has come to inhabit a kind of Alan Lomax position in the information age, nobly scouring the planet for ways in which the dance music template can be reinvented and re-imagined, taking advantage of the splintered state of electronic music as it fires off in all directions, with varying combinations of tempo, rhythm and intensity contributing to what could be the next dominant musical currency. It's a dirty job but someone's gotta do it, and admittedly this caper can sometimes resemble a parlour game where the tail misses the donkey entirely, while our hapless blindman bluffs his way down a steep flight of steps.

Unlike the footwork artists made famous by Planet-µ - or the dubstep or grime producers before them - Misty Conditions don't represent any such incubatory micro-scene ready to burst from its local confines and turn the world upside down. That said, you have to give Henry Collins (Shitmat) and Richard Wilson (Burnkane) at least some credit for trying to come up with a style that avoids easy generic classification. What we have here is a grumbling, swampy sound that sits somewhere between the dingy gloom-scapes of the 'dungeon' dubstep revivalist movement and an airless, slowed-down take on the current trap sound. If dance production be defined as a set of parameters within which to work, then the settings have been changed once more – slow tempo, low gloss-factor, high-medium intensity. Whether these parameters produce anything worthwhile is another question.

It's telling that Shitmat and Burnkane are better known for their work in rather different dance outcrops: Shitmat for his goofy, laughing-through-a-nosebleed 'mashcore' style, and Burnkane for his forays into harsh experimental dubstep. Sadly, Misty Conditions sound exactly as expected – a side project by two online collaborators who haven't quite got the grasp of what they're trying to do yet.

The soft-gabba plod of opener 'Dusco' sets the bar at a low-point above which the album never really rises. Each rhythmic hit lands with the same oppressive velocity as the last, each clumsy loop spins around to meet itself in the same way, drab pads whoosh and fan precisely as you'd expect them to, and it all plays out in excruciating, funkless slow-motion. While a bit of rough-n-ready urgency is accepted and even encouraged in styles like mashcore and footwork, the lack of nuance in swing and timbre at these slower speeds are glaring. Like the amateur fashion designer trying to make plus-sized clothing by simply increasing size-zero measurements, the working assumption here is that all you need to do to make slow-tempo dance music is to slow it down. The result is akin to being thumped repeatedly over the head with an empty Coke bottle, (trance-inducingly infectious as that may seem). I'm yet to discover the meditative properties of Misty Conditions. Rather than taking the listener on any sort of emotional or spiritual ride, the rhythms and samples just sort of stand there, going "I'm here… donk I'm here… donk I'm here… ooooh look a paaaaaad ... donk I'm still here…".

The only sort of, uh, 'journey' we seem to be taken on is down to a poorly-lit basement with moss growing on the ceiling. Judging from some of the track titles – 'Drizzle', 'Drowning', 'Dilute' etc - this may be the intended effect. But without wanting to get too subjective here, as someone who doesn't wish to revisit his goth-industrial phase any time soon and who also happens to be highly allergic to mould spores, I can't say this basement is among my top ten chilling-out destinations. Things reach near-parodic lows on the appropriately-titled 'Dank', a track so inane we're left wondering if Misty Conditions wasn't intended as some sort of elaborate parody of whatever that gothy-dance aesthetic was that got popular in the 90s. It's not a patch on the menacing groove of 'Inertia Creeps', the maniacal glee of 'Come To Daddy' nor the schlocky horror of Blawan's more recent 'Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage'. 'Dank' is the musical equivalent of the Golgothan Shit Demon in Kevin Smith's Dogma – a stinkmonster from a dated comedy whose smell is worse than its bite.

The most frustrating thing about D'zzzz is how lazily executed it all is. It really does sound like the product of tracks being passed back and forward over the internet by people who would rather be making something entirely different. Sounds and samples are chosen with artless haste, negligently slapped over the mix and sent back across the tubes, with neither collaborator taking the time to challenge or compromise the other's creative choices. Even at around 35mins, the whole thing is quite literally a slog. While Misty Conditions might not sound quite like anyone else, it's reason to be thankful, as here we're left with a deflated misappropriation of dance music, one which appears to miss the point of good electronica in almost every conceivable way.