Estonian, video gamer, and producer – these are just some of the titles bestowed upon Mord Fustang. He has set the bar high for albums this month, let alone the rest of the year. As an artist not only known for his prestigious productions, the man with the clever spoonerism for a stage-name has also left a mark on the electronic dance music scene since his early work in 2011. Four years later and he returns to the fray and the fans with his debut album titled 9999 In 1. The craziest thing about the timing of his debut LP is seeing it going head to head against trance trio Above & Beyond‘s We Are All We Need and DJ Mag’s number 1 Hardwell‘s United We Are.
Listeners are welcomed by “1984”, which serves as an indication that this album will be full of music that runs on more than just 128 beats-per-minute. In a way, this tune is reminiscent of the song in a title screen introducing new and repeat listeners to a hybrid of the classic 16-bit era and the modern electro-dance flavor. With this song, the tone is set in which the world of video games and music will be blended throughout this song and the other nine tracks on the album.
The album swiftly rolls into “Drivel”, which was the first single from 9999 In 1. It’s easy to highlight that this track is the one that all fans of Mord Fustang have come to know him for. His signature electro house tune is composed of a catchy melody and bubbly noise that reminds me of the ideal level one track. Whether its Green Zone Hills from Sonic The Hedgehog or the Mushroom Kingdom in Super Mario, this song is a spot-on match for the first levels of the retrospective video games it draws inspiration from. It’s also interesting to see that many of the songs in this album can serve as reminders to the greatest moments of our favorite video games.
The second single and only vocal track on the album features Canadian duo LIINKS. The tune known as “Pop” is the sole collaboration on the album, and places Mord Fustang in a completely different light from anything fans have seen him do before. Although in the past he has worked with vocals on remixes of “In The Air” by Morgan Page and Sultan + Ned Shepherd and “Finally” by FROIDZ, this is the first time vocals were enlisted for an original track of his own and it turns out to be arguably the best song of the entire album. The tempo slows down, but there’s something about the groove in this track that makes it worthwhile to listen to from start to finish.
The rest of the album strays away from using complete vocals after “Pop” and rolls into into tracks like “PRESS START!” and “Doppelgangbanger”. The former delivers a sensation of glitch-hop replete with chopped synths and a varying tempo. Filled with vocal chops and revolving bass, “PRESS START!” shows Mord Fustang at his fiercest in terms of production skill and style. The latter is a song that surrounds listening ears to the overwhelming sound of drums. Although this song bangs harder than most of the others here, no major impact is made from “Doppelgangbanger”, which leads me to wonder why it was selected as the album’s third single at all.
Past the halfway point, “Skyward World” enters to set a tone of its own. Unlike its predecessors, this song acts more in line as a progressive house staple in the album. In a calm yet bumping rhythm, “Skyward World” almost serves like the song playing for a hub world or a level set somewhere in the clouds. Either way, this somewhat Legend of Zelda reference may not be the most banging track in 9999 In 1, but it is one of the more interesting dynamics to see Mord Fustang take.
Although Mord has displayed his overall mastery of the 128 bpm department, “No Way To Stop” does what songs like “1984”, “Pop”, and “Milky Way Pt. 2” do. They reveal that Mord can also rule outside of his primary domain. In a lot of ways, “No Way To Stop” sounds like something French duo Justice could have produced for their second album Audio, Video, Disco. From the vocal repetition that sounds an awful lot like the singers in “Civilzation” or “New Lands” to the groovy rhythm presented by slapping kicks, the synths roll over the beats and make one of the shortest songs of the album one of the most memorable.
Many songs in 9999 In 1 have displayed the evolution in sound Mord Fustang has gone through. However, “Elite Beat Agent” remind us of his classic tunes like “Super Fever”, “The Electric Dream”, and “Taito” with its pronounced melody and return to the LP’s fast pace. New vocal chops join the melodic rapture that is this song to create a bouncy, fun-filled aura of free-flowing electro house. Although this album shows us how far Mord Fustang has come, “Elite Beat Agent” reminds us of why we fell in love with him in the first place.
A new melody takes charge in Mord Fustang’s sequel to one of his earliest tracks. With “Milky Way Pt. 2”, listeners are treated to a heavy and crunchy dubstep rendition of the original. Freshly chopped vocals immediately prep us for an unstoppable force of gritty wobbles and reduced tempo. In all the madness of noise, however, the melody sticks out to bridge fans from the first bonkers drop to an equally insane second drop that sets itself as the final boss of the album. It is one of the few songs that makes this album worth coming back to.
The final tune in Mord’s debut album is titled as oddly as any other song that we’ve seen so far. In “The Morning After The Morning After Pill”, the end has been reached and this is the conclusion to the LP. To fit as an end to this Mord Fustang’s labors, this song creeps with ambient electronica and exits in a similar manner. There are no hard-hitting kicks and there are no crisp bass lines. But the story has reached its end and this song is the perfect way to signal the end as it echoes the melody and fades into oblivion.
In roughly forty-six minutes, listeners have voyaged through 9999 In 1. Regardless of the big names also releasing albums this month, Mord Fustang was able to stand apart and tall with his ten-track, debut album. At moments, the album does not necessarily overwhelm as a collective whole. However, there are plenty of songs in here that alone can surprise you. It may not catch the attention of the average person, but this album was made for the fans more than anything. Although Mord has material stretching across an almost five year career, this album is and will continue to be a defining moment for his musicianship and his overall sound. I hope for the sake of electro house that he has more stored for the year before it’s over.