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Mark E

Product of Industry

(Spectral Sound; US: 29 Apr 2014; UK: 5 May 2014)

It can often be hard to discuss electronic music if one is not fully immersed in the genre and its myriad subgenres and sub-subgenres. From an outside perspective, much of the music can often come across as somewhat alienating: at best sonic wallpaper, at worst pointless exercises in repetition. But it’s within the repetition that you can truly lose yourself.


If accepted as the immersive experience it was originally intended to be (this being dance music after all), it can often be slightly transformative in its lack of need to hold your full attention at every moment, instead allowing your thoughts to drift, your mind to wander and your body to unconsciously find itself nodding along to the beat. Because of this, tracks can often extend to great lengths, settling into an ideally immersive cadence and generating a hypnotic sway aided and pushed ever onward by the generally simplistic rhythmic patterns and repetitive melodic figures.


Because of this, however, it can often be difficult to recall exactly what made a particular listening experience that much better than another. Getting lost in one’s own mind while listening to an album like Mark E’s Product of Industry is immensely satisfying on a deeply personal level, but it may not necessarily reflect the original intentions of its creator. Regardless, this is highly immersive music, born on repetition and rhythm and ideal for simply giving in to the flow and embracing it for what it can offer the individual listener, not necessarily what it is on its own.


Ostensibly a commentary on contemporary commercial culture and our being a literal product of industry in the 21st century, Product of Industry plays into and off of these ideas both in the thematic material, as well as the individual tracks themselves. With opener “Kultra Kafe”, we are dropped mid-morning into a café scene with no contextual reference points aside from the subtle accents of the patrons gently clattering dishes and silver as they go about their day. Slowly, the field recording begins to give way to a repetitive rhythmic figure that, when joined by assorted synth swells, fully envelopes the café scene itself and becomes something more entirely, subsuming reality in favor of something warmer, more comforting and ultimately blissed out. As the repetition reaches its apex, we are slowly re-immersed in reality, gently reminded that we’ve places to be and people to see as we go about our day.


From here, tracks devolve and distort repetitions, bending and stretching them, twisting and turning each as it winds its way ever onward atop a simple beat. So immersive is the experience that it can often be difficult to focus on individual parts and pieces, instead consuming each piece as a whole, often losing large chunks of time in the process as, despite their often exorbitant running times on paper, none of the nine here ever feels overlong.


With “Being Hiding”, vocals are prominently featured with a soulful lead that lends a human element back into the mechanized proceedings; an organic reminder that while we may be a product of industry, industry itself is a product of us and that behind each mechanized movement is a human heart and mind capable of great feeling. A rather simplistic notion on the surface, it can help some in processing electronic music coming from a background rooted largely in the organic production of sounds by groups of people rather than an individual and their computer. While the computer might be the ultimate creative tool in its seemingly unending capability, it takes a creative mind to make the most of said tool, wringing from it sounds and feelings rooted in the human condition and our constant quest to understand our increasingly mechanized surroundings. 


Midway through the album, well into any meditative trance brought on by the constant repetition, we check back into the café with “Myth of Tomorrow”, once again losing ourselves while there only to be somewhat startled back to reality as we come to the realization that, despite our self-imposed immersive isolation, we are very much in the presence of other people. Very much a 21st century condition, we often find ourselves lost in technology, using it as a means to connect with others when, in reality, organic connections are all around us and simply waiting to be made.

Rating:

John is a Michigan-based musician and writer. He currently reviews music for PopMatters and Spectrum Culture, while also working his way through his ever-expanding record collection at www.tumblr.com/blog/vinylcompulsion.


Tagged as: mark e
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