There is an infinite number of sounds that can be explored, played with or mangled in music. Some of the most interesting artists are the ones who push the boundaries, who explore the border of what is considered music and make sonically interesting experiments. But the thing with experiments is that they go in unfamiliar directions, look for places in art that no one had considered, and often it is very much hit or miss. Lithops’ album Mound Magnet is just such a creature. What else do you expect from a man with the reputation of Jan St. Werner, formerly of Mouse on Mars and Microstoria?
Highlights include the first track, “Opposite of Windward”, (all feedback, fuzz and crackles, little bursts of sound that hit you from every which way); “Cephalopod” brings in dangerous sounding guitars, and the song feels like a Smashing Pumpkins instrumental from the late ‘90s. “Peek” sounds vaguely danceable in the middle portion, with a pounding bass giving some funk to the machines that overwhelm the sound. Yet the most ambitious and interesting songs on the album are the longer, multi-part ones. These songs go with one sound for a couple of minutes, and then switch schizophrenically to another without notice. “Stakes Barrier”, the fifth track, is one such track. It contains all the glitches and drums and basses and assorted oddities that the album revels in, yet its epic length and sudden changes of mood bring the song to dizzying heights then down again, taking the listener on a rollercoaster ride. Near the 3:00 mark, the music fades to silence, and then starts up again after a brief moment. It happens again a minute later, almost as if the music is giving us moments to breathe. Yet to describe these songs in general terms does not do them justice. They are about moments and melodies going up, down, up-side down, and all around. They are about “aha”, the one second that makes you smile, surrounded by the 15 that you raise your eyebrow at. If that sounds like it appeals to you, by all means give this album in chance.
Whenever someone plays with sounds, there is a spectrum of those that appeal to you, those who don’t, and everything in the middle. This album throws so much at the listener that it is impossible to not be struck but some note, some flicker, some beep that hits the spot at the right moment. At the same time, there is so much, it’s impossible to get a coherent story out of it. It doesn’t feel controlled by a theme, other than the theme of exploring where music can go. This is an album about everything, because every moment is unique and interesting, but not necessarily for you. It is up to the attentive listener to mine its works.