Future beat producer Mndsgn’s new album Body Wash, released Sept. 16, is a funk-fueled flood of ethereal strings, plinking synths and groovy drumming.
Ringgo Ancheta, known as Mndsgn (mind-design) is a Cali-based producer who is one of the great success stories of the Low End Theory generation. This is a group of artists who cultivated and perfected a specific, experimental style of electronic music at Low End Theory, an underground club in LA.
Mndsgn released this album on Stones Throw Records, a diverse and quirky label which houses many members of the L.A. beat scene including Knxwledge and Samiyam. This project is a major divergence from Mndsgn’s usual work. Taking aspects of what he learned from his very free, liberated and experimental style, Mndsgn creates a cohesive, beautiful project.
Mndsgn, a producer who thrives on the cutting edge of music, uses this project to turn his focus back onto the past. Body Wash is another project in the west coast’s recent burst of exploration of old music.
One can see it with Tuxedo, Jake One and Mayer Hawthorne’s funk/pop collaboration, Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly and all of Dâm-Funk’s work. What Mndsgn created this time isn’t a beat tape or experimental electronic album, this is a pure funk project.
Mndsgn’s greatest change is his groove. On previous projects, Mndsgn relied on Dilla-inspired, kick-heavy drum tracks, but on Body Wash, he turned to hectic funk and soul rhythms as his backing. Even with this evolution, some aspects of Mndsgn’s percussive style stay the same. He still maintains a dragging tempo letting the chords ring out for a while and linger over the beats and the bass. The songs move slowly and the music drips out like honey.
In his previous work Mndsgn played the role of a mad scientist, experimenting with rhythms and sounds. With a broad sound palette and a seemingly infinite store of inspiration, Mndsgn created some very unique compositions. Most of his music is dreamlike and ethereal — reminiscent of floating. Building on a few chords and a simple drum loop, Mndsgn layers filters, tones and samples until the soundscape is full.
With Body Wash, Mndsgn drops the trademark haziness of his past projects altogether. He builds layered, well mixed and absolutely flawless tracks, eschewing the dusty, grimy sounding production style. The project’s high production value is astounding — it just sounds expensive. Each instrument has enough space on the mix to be clearly distinguished, the bass knocks through the middle tones and the drums are always perfectly nestled under the instrumentation.
Along with tightening up the production, Mndsgn also worked to create music with better structure and more direction. While Mndsgn’s mixtapes are full of experimental, basic and short loops with unorthodox rhythms, Body Wash has distinct songs with fundamental grooves that end with satisfying conclusions. While it is disappointing that Mndsgn isn’t playing around as much, the focus on structure does generally make better songs. This is a consistently great album but not a very diverse one.
This project involves a lot of vocal melodies as well. Mndsgn’s trademark singing style persists. Using heavy filters, he augments his voice into a robotic, swooping tone that rings above the flood of smooth synths and the flat bass. The voice adds more sounds to the already heavy soundscape and forms some beautiful harmonies.
While a lot of the tracks on this album are experiments in overproduction and excessively clean mixes, the simplest songs still ring true. Mndsgn does best with a basic melody and a basic loop. The whole Searchin series of tracks is a phenomenal streak of simple, beautiful instrumental music.
“Searchin I (4 that Familiar Feeling),” succeeds as a song just off of the phenomenal drum groove and the catchy, bouncing synth lines. “Searchin II (4 Sumthin New)” is a bass driven, springy song with a simple, knocking drum riff that builds into a crescendo of synths and high trills. “Searchin III (4 Nothin Else)” is a smooth, vibrant track broken up by hand claps and rattling high hats.
The project ends beautifully, with the slow “Guess It’s All Over,” a meandering, string driven track that flows almost like a dirge. The violins slide around the scale as the drums pound and a clean synth sets the rhythm and the harmony. With this song, Mndsgn mourns the fall from the funky high.
Body Wash is an incredible undertaking. Mndsgn, the quirky, left-field producer who largely works through experimentation has made one of the best modern funk albums. With a great ear for sounds, a phenomenal understanding of rhythm and groove and some nearly perfect audio production and mixing, Mndsgn blew past expectations. While this is one of his most standard projects, it is probably his most cohesive and best complete work.