Review: Mikael – Smiling Face EP [IMRV011]

Coming from deep within the old growth forests shrouded with mist and carpeted with dew logged moss, ancient earth temples older than man itself, Mikael’s debut for Innamind is music to move the body and quiet the mind. Not to mention that’s it great to see Finland’s other great export besides LAS finally get his chance to showcase his depth and range as producer with his own slab of black gold. Mikael doesn’t skimp here either, bestowing three offerings to the sound-system gods.

Starting us off ‘Smiling Face’ is entombed in Scratch Perry’s echo chamber – a haunted house covered floor to ceiling in mirrors at the bottom of the sea. Horace Andy’s disembodied voice calls out like some lost hill duppy searching for it’s body. A menacing carnival-eqsue organ riff churns itself out in between the air sirens and swirling heady brew of intermingling echoes and cavernous hits caused by the dust encased spring reverb tanks. The organ breaks down, reassembling itself many times over, causing nosebleeds, ear aches, stomach aches, nausea and other symptoms of a similar nature. It’s all slathered over a mighty fine reggae indebted sub figure that would make Aba Shanti I or Shaka blush.

Next up is the lumbering golem of ‘Wada’, with grating textures of sand scoring the paint off the walls and gyroscopic shimmers from dubspace, Wada gallops into a heaving stomper. Flecks of shivery hi-hats while dry, wooden snare cracks give an ancient timbre to the track. Soon the strobe like shimmers return morphing into arabesques of flowers and vines. Summoned at the behest of druids along Hadrian’s Wall, ghostly warbles follow the trail towards the open air sky temples and the stone liths that guard the doors to the non-temporal.

Lastly, and my personal favourite is ‘Sandwell’. Acting almost as an addendum or the cousin to the freebie that Mikael gave away ’Dreaming’, ‘Sandwell’ is a hauntingly beautiful tribal roller. Punctuated by majestic yet elegiac Bollywood vocal climaxes, rough cow-hide drums snap and pop while jazz snare hits sting, displaying the uniqueness of Mikael’s sample digging. The sub plummets and twirls with the gracefulness of a boxer. The apex of ‘Sandwell’ comes when a razor sharp flute melody slices your third eye open, opening your chakras and allowing the kundalini to coil upwards towards Shiva, the all-consuming mouth of God. It’s a masterful piece of music, both body punishing yet meditative at the same time that the best dubstep tunes do so well. This one is definitely going to get record burn if you know what I’m saying.

All in all, Innamind and Mikael again cement why they are the current go-to label for those DMZ inspired riddims that harken back to early FWD days when it was just a dark room and a big system. Bodies swaying in unison, smoke swirling, and speaker cones shaking. Mikael really shines here without his cohort LAS, displaying his influences and his rough hewn samples into aural collages that are meditative and bursting with deadly sub-weight. Jah willing, we shall hope to see more from Mikael in the future.

IMRV011 is released November 3rd and available from Bleep and Juno Download.

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