The opening track on Mall’s second album, 05.17.2012 01:34:28 PM -0400, sets an unmistakable mood, through recorded dialogue and atmospheric based music: People hanging out late at night, smoking and having deep conversations. With glowing synth in the background, two pairs of men are talking, one in each speaker. On the right side, they’re discussing spirituality. On the left? Dope, dreams and revolution. One man asks, “What are you up to?” “Planning a revolution,” the other wickedly replies.
While the set-up for the album is a portrait of independent-minded intellectuals expanding their minds, through words and chemical substances, the album on the whole is more an instrumental musical backdrop for such activities than a depiction of them. For close to an hour, Mall create dreamy, laid back, electronic soundscapes. They surround you with electronic fuzz, glimmer and beats, using computers, synthesizers and other technological tools. Throughout there’s a melodic side, but the tracks aren’t lead by melodies. However, they are lead by pounding beats, either; outside of a few dance-oriented spaces, the beats come and go with a certain lackadaisicalness associated more with mellow, after hours chillouts than dance floor sweatathons.
Mall are based in Philadelphia, a city with a continually growing group of talented electronic musicians, many of which have been released through the tbtmo label (formerly known by its spelled-out title, The Blind Man TM Organization), which is run by Rob Cantagallo, one of the two central members of Mall, along with Mike Page (on both 05.17.2012 and their debut album Special Education, they were aided by Sean O’ Neal of Flowchart). This is a spectacularly creative and diverse scene, one recently showcased on the stellar Vibon compilation.
While Special Education had a more giddy, playful feel, exacerbated by samples from children’s television programs, 05.17.2012 is thoroughly dreamy and blissfully mellow. It feels more like entering a zone than listening to a collection of songs. Everything flows together and forms a cohesive feeling. Throughout this enchanting and fun album, Mall sound as interested in people and ideas as in computers and technology, and use all of these interests to draw you into a comfortable aural space.