Mild High Club, “Skiptracing”

Mild High ClubMild_High_Club-2016-Skiptracing
Skiptracing
STONES THROW
7/10

Trying to break in via the Internet as a new artist these days is certainly not an enviable position, what with the sea of memes to compete with and all, so it’s notable when someone on the up and up doesn’t make music necessarily intended to grab your attention from the outset. Alexander Brettin, who leads the charge behind Mild High Club, is a master of the slow burn, and a good example of someone committed to this less-than-viable approach—even if it fails to resonate on anyone’s frequency but his own.

His music—officially introduced last year with the criminally overlooked debut Timeline—is a dense, murky affair, often rooted in structures of familiarity, but laced with an element of the unknown. In the case of his second full-length, Skiptracing, the familiar roots could be said to be Antônio Carlos Jobim or Moby Grape, depending on your state of mind, but the foreign element is unsurprisingly harder to put your finger on (Vaporwave, perhaps?). In that sense, it’s kind of like the anti–detective novels of Paul Auster and Thomas Pynchon, which reel you in with the page-turning promise of a comforting formula before leaving you stricken and zonked out on the sidewalk. And that can be a fun experience, too. Almost more fun, even.

Sure enough, Skiptracing actually does happen to be about a private detective, according to Brettin. But that ends up being neither here nor there because it’s the musicality of the album that’s most worth talking about. In particular, the arrangements are frequently sublime, and the way that the three-song suite of “Skiptracing,” “Homage,” and “Cary Me Back” starts off the album is nothing short of jaw dropping. From there, the rest of the LP doesn’t totally live up to the promise of this initial set (or Timeline, for that matter), but it’s still quite an achievement from someone who rhymes “all I wanna” with “marijuana.”

Don’t write off Mild High Club because they haven’t reached a dramatic high-mark in their story yet. Oftentimes what fails to make sense at first pulls sharply into focus right when you least expect it. Or when you roll another, brother.

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