Mysteries’ shtick is that they’re anonymous. Their label, felte, supposedly doesn’t know who they are, and their faces are covered by absurd masks in all of their publicity photos. They describe themselves as “futuristic druids.” Their website is like an intensely confusing David Lynch film in miniature. But I’ve solved it. I’ve figured out who the fuck they are.
I’m pretty sure that Mysteries are a group of clones engineered by combining Brian Eno’s genetic material with the mitochondrial DNA of Aphex Twin. They were raised in isolation and subjected to A Clockwork Orange-style Ludovico therapy, exposed only to Pet Sounds, latter day Gil Scott Heron, and Clinic albums. The result is distinctive.
Their debut album, New Age Music Is Here, begins with “Introduction”. A deep bass drone hums over scattered industrial garbage can beats, the kick drum insistent and methodical. A barely audible harmony whispers in ominous near unison, “Brace yourself, a new age coming.” Comparisons to Grizzly Bear or Animal Collective are likely, but Mysteries conjure a much darker and unsettling mood than their sunlit psychedelic cousins.
The second track, “Knight Takes Rook”, opens with droney loop that sounds of a machine failing to boot up, before launching into Eno-esque synthesizers, a muted stampede of tom-heavy drumming, and the unhurried lyric “I could never call this love.” The album eventually opens a bit more, with brighter synthesizers and more new wave references, growing a bit more accessible and less abstract. Inspirations might include Kenna or TV on the Radio, though overall the lads in Mysteries lack the former’s danciness or the latter’s more soulful gospel warmth, tending toward a more icily cerebral sound. Still, there’s something about this album that I found strangely compelling, there are so many elements in each track, every song becomes (apologies for this metaphor) a tiny mystery to solve. It’s music that might mourn the heat death of the universe, or the soundtrack of a Chernobyl landscape.
“Stateless Wonder” features a pulsing, reverb-endowed bass coupled with a china teacup rattle, like a low-magnitude earthquake rumbling through a tidy kitchen. Big synth bars roll outward, followed by a steadily growing crescendo of amphetaminic drumming and a doleful choirboy vocal. “Authenticity Machine”’s clacking beat is coupled with thudding bass and mechanical buzz. Shades of Gil Scott Heron’s I’m New Here reveal themselves in the unhurried beat, before a gentle shower of glittering synth breaks the grimy monotony, like snowflakes falling in an industrial site. Standout track “Deckard”, appropriately named after Harrison Ford’s character in Blade Runner, sounds like something a replicant Rutger Hauer or Daryl Hannah might rock out to in a dystopian cityscape.
Ultimately, New Age Music Is Here is a strange and beautiful album, atmospheric and ambient with sufficiently forceful beats to prompt involuntary head bops and toe tapping. The tracks beg to be remixed, and their haunting quality stays with you when you’re trying to sleep after your first listen. I hope to hear more from these weirdos in the future. My only hope is that they never write an album called “Magical,” so as to prevent a nausea-and-groan inducing “Magical Mysteries Tour.”