Mux Mool Planet High School
Planet High School, the sophomore album by Brooklyn beatmaker Brian Lindgren (a.k.a. Mux Mool), arrives roughly two years after the producer's first LP for the Ghostly label, and the time between releases has served Lindgren well. Skulltaste was splintered between instrumental hip-hop tunes and straight-up dancefloor fodder (not to mention hits and misses), but the new full-length finds Lindgren narrowing his sound almost entirely on bouncing boom-bap grooves and the retro-futuristic samples he's keen on crafting them with. That focus has yielded better results, too, as Planet High School is evidence of Mux Mool gradually coming into his own.
Most of the 10 tracks that make up the album fit within a very simple formula: A nod-worthy, vaguely 'old-school' beat is paired with a chopped-up sample or two, which are often featured as the melodic backbone, and accompanying softsynths that provide the bassline or lead harmonies. It works best on Planet High School's earlier tracks, like the smooth opener, "Brothers," and "Palace Chalice," when Mux Mool sounds almost like a young DJ Shadow with the latest copy of Ableton. Those tunes are slick with just enough vinyl crackle, understated with just enough soundsystem punch, and contemporary while maintaining a classic edge.
But far be it from Lindgren to stay in one place too long. As Planet High School continues, his itch to experiment further with source material, tempos, and genres grows, and the results range from spotty to cringe-inducing. The dusty bell samples that lead into "The Butterfly Technique" make for an interesting intro, but when joined with an old-timey piano riff and live drum breaks, the whole thing starts to take on an odd air of Christmastime, which sounds out of place—especially once the tune flips into a frenetic jumble of disparate samples and playful synths. Things get a bit rougher on "Cash For Gold," an unwitting homage to Human After All-era Daft Punk, and "Get Yer Alphabets (Gun)," a cut that sounds practically tailor made for wobble gobblers, as Mux Mool appropriates dubstep-ian rhythms and smatterings of twitchy samples for use in the ADD-fueled production. Maybe the edgier moments serve the purpose of rounding out Planet High School, but that doesn't make them any easier to digest.
Mux Mool even slipped a couple of slow jams into his tracklist. "Ruin Everything" verges on touching without even aiming directly for the heartstrings (hints of Boards of Canada can be heard in the shuffling beat, filtered synthlines, and airy soundscape, too), while the sunny "Baba" comes off as downright sappy and utilizes one of the most overused melodies in modern music. Intentional or not, the use of that progression makes an otherwise engaging production sound trite. Planet High School is obviously not perfect, nor should it be, but it is a step upwards and onwards for Mux Mool; it's the work of a knowledgeable producer with a wide spectrum of influences and whose best tracks are likely still to come.
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