The first sound on Mux Mool's second album Planet High School is jagged, harsh repetition, tiny samples sent through filters until they create a herky-jerky funk rhythm. It's nothing too out of the ordinary for Ghostly, but there's something unusually sanguine about Minneapolis producer Brian Lindgren's brand of it. His distractedly adventurous Skulltaste debut was an overlong melange of weedy, reedy beats. But you won't find those descriptors appropriate here. Planet High School is an anomaly in an overcrowded field of beat music, preferring actual songs over sketches and loops, progression over attention deficit.
For music made out of such little sounds, Lindgren's rarely feels less than rich, loaded with sumptuous basslines, melodic codas and even brief streaks out into skittering breaks territory. And that's all in one track. Where other producers might hurriedly shove all these elements into a formless scramble, Lindgren is steady-handed: he'd rather let tracks veer from bubbly synth melodies to whiplash breakdowns slowly and naturally ("Hand on the Scantron") or slowly unravel the tightly-coiled rhythms into hypnagogic lullabies ("Ruin Everything"). His sampladelic approach adds colour rather than clutter: his bite-sized bits of organ and the wildly jazzy synth solos that gently cuff the grooves are carefully placed and layered.
Mool's new look comes together best in "Raw Gore," which rumbles on a zig-zaggy fuzz bassline that recalls the older, spastic work of Lazer Sword as much as it does vintage funk. Indeed, much of Planet High School shines with the warmth of P-funk but with the digitized coldness of modern instrumental hip-hop, giving the whole album a half-baked, nostalgic sound. As often as it works, it renders harder tracks like "Cash for Gold" and "Get Yr Alphabets (Guns)" neutered, potential steamrollers reduced to bits and bytes.
Planet High School mostly succeeds even in the face of these slight disappointments because of its sheer persistence: moments like the breakdown in "Brothers" are unexpected but not unwelcome, and the focus he shows here, not only in the songwriting but the sequencing—ten tracks over 40 minutes—makes for an album that truly stands out in a flood of generic funkateers. It takes a lot of talent to make crate-digging sound so seamless, and even if the cracks show every once in a while, Planet High School is some of the best patchwork around.
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Tracklist: Mux Mool - Planet High School 01. Brothers
02. Live at 7-11
03. Palace Chalice
04. Ruin Everything
05. The Butterfly Technique
06. Hand On Scantron
07. Raw Gore
08. Cash For Gold
09. Get Your Alphabets (Guns)