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Beanna Arusa Qureshi , July 1st, 2022 08:49

Liv.e collaborator Mejiwahn takes us on a wild and woozy journey, finds Arusa Qureshi

In the summer of 2020, Oakland producer Mejiwahn retreated to a yurt in Montana. Here, he spent a week working on the music that would eventually make up the bulk of his debut album. But, thanks to various stints in different locations around the US, Beanna has transcended that one yurt in Montana. Instead, it’s an album that encapsulates a sense of movement through its drifting narrative and loose textures, mapping out both personal change and physical journeys.

Mejiwahn gave us a taste of his skill at building and contorting musical fragments when he worked with R&B-jazz singer-songwriter Liv.e on her 2020 debut Couldn’t Wait to Tell You. Like that record, Beanna finds its strength in the fluidity of soundscapes, with lo-fi beatmaking and production, psychedelic backdrops and cinematic instrumentals all contributing to this nomadic and meandering feel.

Even the album’s introduction, ‘FAOLINTRO’, requests that we temporarily let go, like the clinical voice in one of the many meditation apps that we downloaded in droves over the pandemic. “You may need to turn off the television, radio or unplug the phone,” a robotic voice instructs. “The most important thing is that you’re comfortable and prepared to relax, and release the cares of the world.”

Throughout Beanna, the repetitive patterns and offbeat rhythms become hypnotic, as in ‘SPRING’, featuring saxophonist Daniel Bitrán and bassist Juuwah. There’s so much going on in such a short space of time but it all melds beautifully and chaotically together, Bitrán’s saxophone existing like an embellishment on top of the disorder.

The gentle bossa nova influence in tracks like ‘LUMABY’, which features vocalist hrlum, and the woozy ‘ANIMA’ further demonstrate Mejiwahn’s blurring of genres and the significance this has in the representation of the literal and figurative journey. Lead single ‘HEART STRING SPECIAL’ is a fusion of three songs in one, like a film soundtrack with collaborator and close friend Liv.e playing the part of protagonist, while ‘JUSTHEWEED’ plays out like a mellow conversation between two very slick rappers, Zeroh and lojii.

Mejiwahn is conspicuous in his mission statement from the get go but title track and album closer ‘BEANNA’ epitomises this most clearly, not only in its jingle-like make-up, but also in the track’s happy-go-lucky recurring lyrics: “Fly away, fly away, just let go and fly away.”

Music is and always will be escapism for many but over the past few years, it’s doubled as a form of travel – within the confines of our imagination, at least. When we couldn’t go anywhere, we relied on musicians to illustrate their journeys, safe spaces and unfamiliar surroundings through the vibrancy of their words and melodies. Beanna is an album that paints a picture of a very specific time, both for artist and listener, weaving in and out of sonic vignettes that leave you in a dizzying splendour of experimental loops and atmospheric transitions.