Mndsgn, a compact moniker for Jersey-born, LA-based producer Ringgo Ancheta, has a knack for stringing together familiar beats – everything from old-school hip-hop to vintage funk – in a way that makes them surreal, a dreamscape of unpredictable transitions softened by heat-warped synths and other hazy electronics. Sometimes, as on 2014’s Yawn Zen, this makes for a psychedelic, acid-washed ride from track to track. On the other hand, 2016’s Body Wash drew more from glittery 1980s pop sounds, blasting right into space.
His new release Snaxx is a little bit of everything, a sampler platter offering different tastes from Mndsgn’s eclectic repertoire. All told the 14 tracks come out to less than half an hour, making it even harder to pin down the producer’s ephemeral style. Holding together the tapestry are faint hints of distortion, evoking the feeling of scanning late-night FM radio for experimental college stations and deep quiet storm programming or fast-forwarding through well-worn audio cassettes. That is what keeps the mix just a little grounded: an undeniable nostalgia that should be impossible.
On opening track “Comethru”, Mndsgn sets a tone that will permeate the album. It’s one of moody simplicity, a minimal ostinato on synths. Occasionally, voices and stray notes float through, just off enough to make it clear that Mndsgn is going to keep things interesting. The keyboard flourishes on “Spreads” add a jazzy coolness, while “Papayaberry” heads for the stars, blasting off with a sense of electronic wonder. The sampled beats on “Hydration Station” hint at hip-hop sensibilities. “Browneez” has a psych-rock edge. It’s flavor after flavor, from the sharp beeps of “Sumdim” to the retro-twee backdrop of harp-and-flute-fraught “Over Ez”, from Jon Bap’s melancholy crooning on “Chips” to Asal Hazel’s breathy voice on “Snaxx w U”.
By design, it’s hard to point to a standout track. Three songs clocking in at under a minute and few have the kind of structure that gives them somewhere to go if they stick around. An exception to this, perhaps, is “Ggardenn” featuring Pink Siifu, a rapper whose career thus far has also been something of a shapeshifter in terms of form. Here, his voice is low, soft, and soulful, both when speaking and singing. When backed by Mndsgn’s unique brand of offbeat sensuality, it makes for a finish that raises all the right goosebumps.
Snaxx serves its titular purpose of giving Mndsgn’s audience something to enjoy between full-length albums and works well as a complement to Snax, last year’s self-released tape of remixes. Between the two of them, Mndsgn does a comprehensive job of presenting Mndsgn, showing both what he has done and what he feels like doing from here. As we should expect from him by now, he creates fantastic layers of atmosphere throughout Snaxx. The rest, though, is a lush, wondrous surprise, promising much more to come from the mind of Mndsgn. What that is remains to be heard – but thus far, Mndsgn seems to be able to play with just about any style he wants to with brilliant results.