Glistening keys and lonely high-pitched R&B hooks permeate throughout this essential EP
By Timir Goswami on February 13th 2016
Just like his Pokemon counterpart, Mssingno seems to be quite a rare and elusive creature.
The guy sprouted up at the back end of 2013 and dropped an EP which, akin to Zomby’s eponymous debut on Hyperdub, carved out its own unique colourful niche within the erstwhile sombre musical landscape. Hearing 'XE2' for the first time was definitely a big moment; let’s not forget that in order to play it, DJs from all genres had to be prepared to abandon all rhythmic pace of their mixes to drop in an outsider lo-fi glockenspiel track with no drums for the first 3 minutes, and despite that, it got played by literally everyone. That gives you some idea of how essential the track was.
If you’re in any grime forums, you’ll know about the pedestal that young producers have put Mssingno on since that 2013 release, and yet for some reason, apart from a stream of refixes, everyone has managed to leave the Mssingno sound well enough alone. Which is part of the reason why it’s nice to see him return, on XL no less, the label that signed the legendary Jai Paul.
Your first thought when you bump Fones is that the tracks are very distinctly Mssingno - there’s no other way to put it - they could not possibly have been made by anybody else in the scene. In his Red Bull interview the artist spoke about how he liked to stick to a few cherished VSTs which he had become the master of, and that certainly comes across; for the most part, the instrumentation on this record is made up of tweaks and revamps of signature saw and square elements reminiscent of earlier works.
That is not to say, however, that we feel like we are being served the same dish all over again. In the vein of artists like Murlo and Burial, Mssingno seems able to churn out classics by drawing from the same sound bank time and time again, which is what makes this EP such a nice listen. We are all familiar with his aesthetic; the glistening keys which swoop in and out, the rapid hi-hat half-step beat, the lonely high-pitched R&B hooks which permeate through the tracks; to the point where you can almost predict the structure of each song before it’s gone past the first 8 bars. Yet the layers are quirky and executed masterfully enough for us to feel like this is still forward-thinking and innovative production.
For my two cents, the weakest track on this release - which is actually by no means a weak track at all - is 'Dead'. Seems like the Goon Club Allstars O.G is going for more of a trippy club joint feel, and though the wall of snares hitting you is tight, the lead synth doesn’t allow the other elements to shine as much as they do on other tracks. The highlights of this EP would be 'Fones' and 'Scope', the latter of which is certainly the jewel in the crown. Scope’s build up with chimes and Mssingno’s cheeky tag just before the trap beat kicks in is a definite hair on the back of your neck moment; is it just me wondering why this wasn’t the opener for the EP? Everyone is going to lose their shit to it.
With FACT heralding 'XE2' as one of the top ten tracks of the last FIVE YEARS (to put that into context, it held rank amongst Mosca’s 'Bax', Blawan’s 'Getting Me Down' and Girl Unit’s 'Wut'), to say that the bar was set pretty high for the release of Fones would be a massive understatement. But Mssingno delivered. Go check it out.