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Peak Communication CJ Thorpe-Tracey , September 24th, 2019 07:26

Milwaukee producer Mestozi builds gorgeous sad beats reminiscent of Anticon and afrofuturism, finds CJ Thorpe-Tracey

This one’s off the bench. It came recommended, then gathered full attention within three tracks, unexpectedly enticing among a pile of lesser albums on a wet Tuesday. After three EP releases in 2018, Peak Communication is the full-length debut for Milwaukee-based guitarist and rapper of Philippine heritage, Mestozi. He’s full DIY, self-releasing and – working with what seems to be very little resources – he’s building gorgeous sad beats; veering between downtempo observational hip hop, off-kilter alt-folk and glitchy, droll, minimal psychedelia. Jazz, even.

Like, track two, ‘The Heighest’ opens with a full minute of clipped audio from a Coen Brothers film, their 2009 comedy A Serious Man. It’s a weird, nonchalant way to dislocate us, so early in the record – and that’s your focus pulled for the duration.

“The boss isn’t always right but he’s always the boss,” says someone to someone else.

There are a few of these dotted around. Tracks glitch and lurch into each-other. They’re often disjointed enough – even within themselves – that you’re not quite sure if you’re still inside the same jam. It doesn’t matter, though. The mostly rhythm-less tone loop melancholy of ‘Moon Red’ sounds like Mestozi could unfold or develop into top drawer Afrofuturism if he fancied. It’s a kind of rough blueprint towards the dizzying visions of Flying Lotus and that scene, given a budget. But he’s more of a downer than those guys. “I’m starting to realise, I’m in between, undefined, I’m not gonna be the guy. And that’s fine,” he drawls, though it clearly isn’t fine.

Instead, it is a sparse, echoing lo-fi beat, a hissy sample and a retro keyboard sound. Brief guitar noodles here and there. More clips off of films. Mestozi’s clipped spoken style is low and bookish. Without being showy, this is also an intellectually impressive, broad focused record. I start remembering that whole Alias (rip), cLOUDDEAD, Yoni Wolf (Why?) scene around the Anticon Collective. Haven’t thought about that crowd for a while. Yeah, it could almost be them, yet at the same time, given oomph and sneer, it could be quieter Soul Coughing stuff.

But then you get a half-sung acoustic song like ‘Arcadia, Still’, which is sonically and spiritually closer to indie-folk artists like Papa M or Bill Callahan than any of the name-checks above.

The thing I can’t tell – coming to Peak Communication cold, off the peg so to speak – is whether Mestozi is one unique artist who sounds like nowt else around him; if he sticks out like a sore thumb in his own world too, ‘I work alone’ style; or if there’s a whole new scene out there, some kind of depressed Wisconsin lakeshore mob, covering this ground as beautifully as Peak Communication does, which I don’t know about. So, quite apart from how rewarding this album proved to be, it’s also sent me down a fascinating rabbit hole of further research (if you can call it that), to truffle hunt for some further intriguing Milwaukee sounds and fellow traveller artists in Mestozi’s greater sphere. Which can only be a good thing.