Mndsgn’s Breatharian LP is 30 minutes of contemplative spiritual exodus music. A lo-fi assemblage of old school digging culture, short attention span composition, and poetic attention to sonic details. It’s almost as if Fresh Selects’ label debut is a lost gem from turn of the century Stones Throw. Where his beat scene contemporaries are compiling ephemeral everyday sounds, fragmenting and filtering them through computer programs over and under heavy low ends, Mndsgn takes a more nostalgic approach. There are layers and techniques to be appreciated on Breatharian, but not due to some manic stacking and compressing of sounds that do the whole “see what I just did muhahaha”. These are soulful sounds rooted in production simplicity and clarity of emotion.
The fourth song “Kikhabits” is two minutes of a muffled funky bass being hurried along by a clattering of kicks and snares as a light rhodes hits every two bars. With some string and piano accents Mndsgn creates the perfect sounds to play watching someone rush to work in their car or trying to catch the last bus home. Later “Just Air” calmly slaps its hypnotic stoner vibes into the mix. Vocals are chopped and filtered to sound like headless ghost over crunchy drums all attached to a mesmerizing loop that plays lightly in the back of the beat. Another highlight is “Arrows”, a glitchy head-nod beat that sounds like smoked-out chipmunk soul at the end of a rave. My personal favorite though is the very heavy meditation of “Hiking”. A sparse piano sample elegantly glides over some dusty ass jazzy drums near the album’s end. It sounds like the feeling one has after a long hike and seeing the immense size of the earth in all its glory.
Those are just four of the 16 songs. There are a handful of tracks Mndsgn is almost teasing listeners with. The wavy L.A. sounds of “Bweyy”, the ’90s east coast boom-bap of “Deergha”, and spastic electro of “Kapalabhati” all clock in right around a minute and seem to end too soon. Alongside “Bootleg Sungazing Techniques” and “Fif Dem”, Breatharian is one of the year’s stronger instrumental releases. All the varying moods of the songs are part of a calm yet imaginative tone that runs throughout the album. Add the blunted sludge on the mix, and the sinewy concoction of sounds, Breatharian at times conjures feelings of Madlib before he began releasing 13 albums a year and we stopped giving a fuck.
But let me allow Mndsgn to live without attaching his style to demigods of the past decade. This album, with sounds tied to a loose concept of a small sect of spiritualist who felt human’s could survive on just the sun and air, moves in and around the body like the elements deified by the Breatharians themselves. Furthermore, another strong aspect of the album is at no point did I find myself saying, “hey, this beat could really use a rapper”. Even if the album is more traditional in its tempo and structure to the chopped, sampled, and looped hip hop of the past, it speaks without the need for words. Mndsgn’s Breatharian is neither ostentatious towards “the future of music” nor monotonous in its reverence to the past, it’s just very damn good. And for that reason alone, every beat head should listen and support.