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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Concrete Cookie & the Maggot Farmer - "Mondegreen"

Artist: Concrete Cookie & the Maggot Farmer
Label: Force of Nature
Genre: Drone, Ambient, Experimental
Website: www.mashup.org

So when I first received this CD I thought “wow, weirdest band name ever!” Then later I discovered that it was actually two separate artists. Then even later I found out that they have been collaborating for a while and are part of Mash Up Soundsystem which has released a record on Hive records. I’ve never heard that record though, so I can’t comment and it won’t provide an obstacle for this review.

Packaging: 5/10

Hmm, the packaging is pretty similar to the musical aspect of the album. I guess maybe I should give it some points for that. It’s in a thin digipak which is fun. The artwork is minimal, but this is fitting of the music. The outer images have a nice color-scheme about them: the blue/black landscape-esque pictures set an atmosphere nearly equal to that which is created by the music. However the inside is boring as it’s all black and white and grey and there is almost nothing discernable from one panel to the next. No text or anything either. Disappointing, however the minimalism draws a visual parallel to the music.

Composition: 6.5/10
Well, Mondegreen is a drone album so that must mean one thing: boring. In this case it does pretty much mean boring. There are long chasms where very little happens; there is a predominant drone coupled with a few tiny sounds or sporadic whooshing which makes up the spinal cord of the album. The sounds used are pretty good though. It reminds me of walking through vast and empty plains, occasionally coming across some decrepit ruins where in the shadows you can hear the screams of children who died there centuries ago. Sometimes the buildings are empty and just look old and bizarre. Sometimes they have a hidden tale to tell which is only semi-lucid in the sounds you hear coming from the old stone blocks. Sometimes there are loud semi-abrasive sounds that don’t fit, but most of the album is calm and collected. There are many times during the album where I found myself thinking “wow this is really boring”. However, after I say that a few minutes later CC&TMF will add in a new sometimes-excellent and sometimes-exciting element. This happens almost every time I start to get bored. Unfortunately the sometimes-exciting element is as far as the progression gets, and the song fails to take me anywhere spectacular or build up into something epic and fantastic. The cool element will then die away into the mist and once again the drone and the empty landscape will become the only remaining force. For example, while walking through those hollow plains, you come to the stones of what was once a cathedral. This album only shows you the cathedral, you don’t get to briefly see into the past and get a glimpse of the edifice in all its once epic splendor and regality. You just see some cool old stones covered in age and moss. So what I am saying is that there is a lot of interesting stuff to be heard and felt on this album, however it falls short in delivering that epic visionary ambient experience.

Production: 8.5/10
The production on Mondegreen is top notch, which is a big reason why the boringness didn’t totally turn me off. Well produced ambient is fairly hard to come by and, in my opinion, a high level of production is necessary in order to convey all the nuances of sound and texture. For that reason, even though there are sections where “not much” is happening, if the listener can focus their attention deeply, they will notice some interesting albeit very subtle minutia. My only qualms with the production are the occasional sounds that get a bit too loud & stick out a bit too much, and during some of the more distorted parts the high end can crawl into abrasive territory which can be physically annoying. For the most part though, the layers fit nicely together and meld into each other to create a consistent texture.

Artistic Merit: 5/10
Hmm, unfortunately not much new or innovative to be found here. There are good tried and true elements of drone which sometimes veer into experimental and visionary territory, but the record is never highly experimental or totally unique. It’s pretty standard yet well-done minimal dark ambient/drone.

Flow: 10/10

The flow on this album is nearly perfect. There are no discernable gaps between songs, and the album has a very precise dedicated global flow to it; it is continuously moving sludge eternally evolving/devolving towards some unseen end. Along the way there are many sights to be seen and things to be heard, but all the while the listener is being pushed along at the whim of Mondegreen. I think it would be strange to start this album somewhere in the middle; to me it feels like its own obscure entity that reveals it’s purpose only upon being heard from beginning to end. If there were no track titles I would think, and perhaps expect, that was album was a massive singular track.

Overall Rating: 6.5/10
Mondegreen succeeds in being a good, but very average, drone album. There are some cool sounds and at times there are thick and creepy otherworldly atmospheres, but as a whole there are too just many open spaces for the listener to get bored. The textures added onto the drone are hit or miss; they’re either great compliments to the piece, or they stand out, fail to mesh and become annoyances. If you’re a fan of drone you will find many parts of this journey enjoyable, however it’s not a totally fulfilling quest. I think they could’ve done more with this record. I feel like they called it a day a bit too soon with this. The potential is there and easily perceptible, but was not fully realized or implemented. Ultimately, I would definitely be interested in hearing future work from the pair and hope they don’t say ciao to the world of dark drone just yet.

-dan barrett
date 07-28-08

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