“Soundtrack To Your Own Fantasy” is a split digital release between relative newcomer Mixtape Monk (aka Arka Sengupta from India) and prolific veteran Cousin Silas (aka David Hughes from the UK). It is released by the New York based label Studio 4632.
The label describes the album as: “Bordering around ambient, post-rock and experimental music, the album blends ambient and cinematic music sensibilities of Cousin Silas with the experimental-minded post-rock sensibilities of Mixtaped Monk.”
As with split records or compilations there is always comparison, you just can’t escape it, especially when the artists rotate the tracks. This album contains four tracks from each artist and a collaborative track. I will review by artist in the order of their tracks.
Mixtaped Monk as mentioned before is a relative newcomer. He has previously put out an album “Urban Lonesome”, the “Light of the East” Ep and 5 singles. He describes himself as a person who enjoys solitude and that music has been a companion for him and something for him to explore.
“Let them Play” starts with a field recording of kids screaming and playing before drones come in held together by a pattern that even if I was unaware of the artists origin, I would describe as having an Asian theme. In a way it reminds me of some Chinese classical music which could be played on some sort of glockenspiel or percussive string instrument. The melody holds the tracks as the layered drones and field recordings cut in and out in loop like fashion. The sound of the track is full without being dense and has a nice balance to it.
“Wanderer” opens with field recordings of birds chirping before drones, multiple electronics, guitar and violin weave themselves together in a tapestry. The use of panning, especially for the violin is particularly affective. My one criticism would be the lack of variation in that possibly elements could be used a bit more sparingly in sections to accentuate other elements.
“Revelations” fuses percussive guitar, piano, violin and takes what I said about in the previous track and mixes the elements together to create a track that is progressively propelled in almost trance like nature as it builds up in a forward chugging motion.
“Twilight Wishes” is a Synth led track with a Sci Fi vibe and guitar doodling that unlike the other tracks, for me, is not as cohesive. It has elements that seem to float, but there is nothing tying them together, which is a shame considering the other tracks having more to them.
Cousin Silas is a prolific musician with at least 11 releases that have come out this year (and 154 listed on Discogs). I have to admit coming into this review cautious of an artist who releases so much. Do they put out too much? Is the music affected? Do the fire up the machines and go off to make a cup of tea? I am also cautious about coming to conclusions before giving the artist a chance.
“Remembering Days” starts with an ebbing Synth drone that gets washed over by a larger drone before minimal guitar part comes in. I am aware that Cousin Silas’ name comes from a character in a King Crimson song so he is probably a Fripp fan, but my thoughts initially was Mark Knopfler. The track appears to have a low bass note section. Initially I thought glacial ambiance, but the synths bring quite a bit of light.
“Entangled” brings in the glacialness with Synth and guitar – which has a feedback howl like drone to it. There is central drone to the track were others come in with icy stabs and as the track reaches conclusion the guitar becomes a bit more forceful.
“Daylight on Saturday” Silas switches it up with a piano meets drone meets guitar piece which is quite a nice variation compared to the other two tracks. The piano has a controlled and well paced sound while the other elements offer filigree and it would be nice, in my opinion to remove those reaching guitar solo-esque parts as the rest of the track is quite pretty and these can distract from the emotional elements of the track.
“Silver Sky” is a revisit to the style of the first two tracks with the reaching synths with the elevating sound that leans ever so slightly in the bright side of the equation. The guitar parts are minimal, which is a relief as they can make the sound dated, but the minimal elements of piano are welcome.
Mixtaped Monk and Cousin Silas
“Awakening” straight away you can differentiate between each artists elements that are brought together in this track. It starts off with Mixtaped Monk before Silas’ guitar is layered over the top, Silas’ drones compete with Monk’s electronics and the track moves on. It would be curious to know how at was constructed, if each part has added as a response to the other artist or if they were two pieces combined.
As I said at the start of the review it is easy to compare the two artists into what works and what doesn’t. The interesting thing is that they are both at different stages in their respective careers. Mixtaped Monk has recently started, but Cousin Silas is some decade and a half into his. Musically I appreciate the Monk tracks over Silas’ and while I probably wont revisit the release in the near future there were elements that were enjoyable.
“Soundtrack To Your Own Fantasy” is released on July 7.