Words by Emily Hollitt AKA Malina Claire
Upon first listen to acclaimed multi-instrumentalist and producer MXXWLL’s debut album ‘SHEEESH’, I was instantly enthralled into the immersion of the listening experience. It was immediately obvious why the Sydney-born producer had caught the attention of artists such as Snoop Dogg, Ty Dolla $ign, DJ Jazzy Jeff and J Cole. Right from the get go AA72 and Player 1 Start show just how experience oriented this album would be. Each track utilises an incredible use space and depth to create completely immersive experiences for listeners, including the helicopter that flies from ear to ear in the album’s second track, or the way normal everyday street sounds turns into beats in the albums opening. Later tracks Slow West and CRZN follow suit, using a mix of natural city sounds and vehicles and blending them in and out of beats, creating an almost visual element to the songs, totally emerging the listener into the music, although the mixing of real-world and music is a common theme throughout. Interlude For Sensei takes this to new heights, creating music and around a voicemail from another artists stating that the music sent to them sounds like they’re music. Based off the line “Just call me sensei”, the song uses production techniques and creativity to dance around a voicemail left for MXXWLL. It begins from the perspective of a user on a computer, with the keyboard panned perfectly; on first listen, I felt as though I was right there; a truly 3D sound experience mixed in with modern production.
The album is an interesting collection of 17 tracks, namely due to the fact that many of the songs are not the traditional length of what you’d expect a song to be, ranging from 37 seconds to 3mins 46secs. This interesting blend and flow of the album makes it feel to be part beat-tape, part fully fledged singles. Songs with features from renowned acts including Melbourne’s KAIIT and chart-topping Aloe Blacc land below the 3 minute mark. However, this does not in any way detract from the listening experience, it merely heightens it, each track is exactly as they’re supposed to be, and the unexpectant and unpredictable movement of the music adds to the intended flow of the album, continually pulling the audience closer in to the world that is ‘SHEEESH’.
Light Turn Green is the album’s most recent single, a collaboration with John Givez, Rae Kalil and Cartoons. MXXWLL’s production dances around the flow of Givez’s flow perfectly, adding brilliantly to the flow and vibe of the song. The complex yet repetitive bassline drives the song forward over an otherwise fairly relaxed beat and production style. The use of traffic sound to begin the songs as well as other real sounds such as a car door opening, a shop door bell and others alongside the walking-speed paced drums provide a visual element to the song, constantly providing imagery to a busy city street. Things U Do featuring the smooth vocals of Kyle Dion was the standout track on the album for me. The guitar and bass work added a sophisticated, funk touch to the track, complimented by the distorted, bright and crunchy tones. Dion’s gorgeous falsetto vocals and layered harmonies added an overall depth and beauty to the song. FOUND IT featuring III Camille and SiR was another standout, again with the production echoing the flows of the featured artists brilliantly. The smooth, soulful voice of SiR continues to draw the listener in as the song comes to a close.
Relax featuring Guapdad 4000 takes a different approach to vocal production, heavily tuning to vocals to add intentional distortion, mimicking the sound of popular hip hop today, moving away from the more natural, soulful vocals of the aforementioned songs. The deep bass and the vocal melody echo the production style of ‘Trilogy’ era The Weeknd. John Givez makes another appearance in CHARGE IT, another of the album’s shorter track. This time, the drum beats and instrumentals reflect a more industrial sound, with the backing samples reminded me somewhat of Kanye’s music, moreso what he was produced for his ‘Graduation’ album, even if only vaguely.
Some tracks on the album felt like fillers in a way, although not so much in a negative sense. These tracks filled in the spaces from one journey to another, like stepping stones to the albums main events. This is mostly due to the repetitiveness of the music, such as MSSNU featuring Nehemie. RNRN featured beautiful vocal layering as well as guitar work and an underlying beat that invites you to move along to the album, however in comparison to the rest of the album, it feels again like part of a journey and no the final destination. Other tracks following suit include the third track O O O as well WHOAH featuring Jackson Powell.
The album finishes on UHHH featuring JD BECK, which, to me, was definitely another standout based on samples alone. Although it may begin with a musicians worst nightmare-the dreaded sound of the click track, it quickly progresses into something completely unexpected. Fast paced drums, distorted bass and atmospheric synths work together nicely, before introducing unexpected but unmistakable samples from ‘Super Mario Bros’, particularly by re-pitching the sounds Mario makes when he collects coins as well as re-purposing one of the many songs from the game’s distinguishable soundtrack, closing the album off on a note of nostalgia.
MXXWLL’s debut album is not something that can simply be listened to once, however experienced time and time again. Even while writing this review, I would always go back and hear a small detail or something that I had missed. Inspired by the Californian lifestyle, the constant inclusion of real sounds of the city made the album play out almost like a movie; sounds you could almost see. This inclusion truly made the album stand out in a way no album has ever stood out to me before, a curiosity and infatuation towards the art where I feel I have heard something almost completely new. I may be a later fan to the already wildly successful MXXWLL, but I definitely will be following his work closely from this point forth, and cannot wait what this truly inventive musician will present us with next. But for now we have the immersive, entrancing sounds of the ‘SHEEESH’, an album so layered and intricate, it’s sure to not grow tired any time soon.
LIGHT TURN GREEN ft John Givez, Rae Kahlil & Carrtoons – OUT NOW
‘SHEEESH’ – OUT MAY 22
PRE-ORDER / PRE-SAVE HERE
With thanks to Positive Feedback