Review Summary: no one puts it down like me
If you were paying attention to the border between electronic and R&B back in 2013, you probably noticed how much it was blurring. Mssingno’s dark, R&B-looping, debut EP was crazy hot at the time, with rips of everything he ever released rapidly getting thousands of views by a small but devoted fanbase. If you were at all interested in the scene you had to hear it. The most fascinating music tends to come around on the borders of accessibility and obscurity, and this took popstars into the realm of dark club-focused youtube channels. Outside of maybe Burial, I don’t know anyone else who has blended the two so well.
Last year, he came out of the shadows and released two projects. One was an EP which focused more on the grime side of things, and one was a mix, M1 Personal Trainer
, which attempted to replicate the previous crossover appeal. It starts off perfectly, piano interlaced with brief vocal chops and eventual samples of Human After All-era Daft Punk, a gorgeous balance. Next, however, he takes straight pop music, songs like “What Do You Mean,” “Whatcha Say” and “King,” and samples them much more blatantly than he ever has before. Instead of some brief phrase repeating with evolving background, some of these pieces are just complete cuts from the chorus, with enough changes to feel fresh if not enough to hide the origin. From his long period not releasing music or putting anything on streaming services (probably at least partially due to sampling issues), his interviews citing his love of pop music, and the relative copyright freedom of the mix format compared to others, one senses that this has been something he’s wanted to do for a while. And it really works. This unashamed presentation of music largely lambasted in the scene he stands in shows greater creativity and courage than those who do not.
It creates new peaks in the experience as well – the beginning of “Into You” is one of the most satisfying moments he’s ever put on an mp3. The mix format allows for more of these amazing moments, ones more typical to pop music than electronic music, which attempts to extend moments into entire tracks, which is what was done with everything he released before M1
. The piano and strings he utilizes frequently throughout the mix add to this build-up effect. Another thing that helps a mix ebb and flow is good transitions, which are scattered throughout here. Elements are consistently removed just when they need to be and always substituted with another one, which effectively creates a new song without even seeming to switch. On the other hand, sometimes Mssingno just stops the mix entirely, finishing a song, and starts another, which sounds bad on paper but actually really works and was probably a better idea than the alternative for some of the extreme differences, although it’s a bit off-putting at first. This willingness to pull out surprises is clearly his calling card. Even though using pop music samples in mixes has become more popular as of late, mixes by artists like Cashmere Cat or SOPHIE somehow don’t come off as genuine as M1
does. It reads like a love letter to music, to the relatability of a love song, to the search for the perfect moment, to the atmosphere of a club, to the power of a mix.