Magic Mountain High – Workshop YY.1


This is a record I’m really pleased to own. Similarly to Four Tet’s 0181, out earlier in the year, it’s not so much an EP as a continuous stream of improvised music. Between the 2 tracks, there’s over 31 minutes of Move D, Juju and Jordash going to town on their hardware. Below is a 90 minute set they performed in Panorama Bar last year so you can get a better idea of exactly what it is they do: 

Alternatively, take a look at this picture, courtesy of Workshop man Benjamin Brunn’s flickr:

mmh live

YY.1, in comparison with MMH’s previous release, the 3 track EP Workshop XX, The Schnitzel Box vol. 1 is a recording of another live set, this time taken from the 2012 edition of the mythical invite only FreeRotation festival. By the sounds of it, MMH really know how to work their gear. They use a lot of Roland machines and you can really tell that on this release, with the drum patterns and sounds rich and complex, not getting tired or repetitive over either +/- 15 minute side.

It’s not just the beat which they get right either. Both tracks are a balancing act of the various components of their live sound: the beat, the highs and the bassline. Each element assumes the musical foreground at one point of the track, before fading into the background as it swaps prominence with another element. This is a brilliantly choreographed rotation: made all the more mesmerising through the astute use of reverb, delay and just the sheer sound of it all.

On the A side, Live at FreeRotation, when the beat drops out, or fades into muffled hi hats, and the melody comes to the fore it is allowed to develop; simple chords or notes becoming swallowed up by jazzy, dissonant motifs, adding to the free spirited nature of the track. Then the kick drum is allowed to return, being complemented with a cowbell, extra snares and extra steps.

This emphasis on gradual development and progression into something new is evident on both tracks. The A side focuses on maintaining a developing and changing melody alongside a beat which becomes gradually more fleshed out. The B side, May the Box Be With You! is at its base more of an acid track, with the distinctive squelchy bassline and a heavier and more constant kick drum at its heart. At points in the track, however, the beat is less fixed, with synth lines coming to the fore. This creates a sense of space and suspense, before the drum patterns come back in, returning a sense of movement to the track.

This record doesn’t get boring and it’s not difficult to listen to either. In fact, on every listen, you can pick up on something new. Both sides are made up of rich, interlocking textures, they’re exactly what a live performance should sound like in my mind. The improvised nature of the tracks makes it all the more impressive that they sound that good. The length of the two sides, 17 and 13 minutes respectively, allow for proper and deep development and for such a variety of sounds and places where the music goes. A really rewarding record. Someones uploaded them onto YouTube, give them a listen and you won’t even notice the time go by.

My rating: 4.5/5




One thought on “Magic Mountain High – Workshop YY.1

  1. Pingback: 2013: Our Picks | Subsoil Blog

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