It’s hard to believe it’s been three years since Analog, Misanthrop’s last stunner of an album, where the German producer taught the largely digitized D&B world a little something about the joys of mods. That said, since we all know COVID years don’t count, it’s really more like 18 months. In an interview with UKF, Misanthrop said that he used the largely show-less COVID time to play even more with his experimental side and, inspired by a couple of unfinished tracks from Analog, Universe was born from that weird pandemic time warp. It’s quite fitting, really.
From the album intro “It’s Okay,” that time warp feel is real as is the experimental composition, as the beatless track features a host of old-timey, vintage sounds; either actual old sound and music loops (you just know Misanthrop has a stack of those) distorted a bit further along with actual clock sounds and a healthy bit of drone and ambient sound design. It announces to the listeners that Universe will not be your average drum & bass album, but that’s literally always true with Misanthrop.
“Jupiter” follows “It’s Okay” and is one of the unfinished Analog tracks and has some similar synths so it’s a good tie-in, connecting 2019 to 2022. It’s still quite different in a lot of ways from the sound of Analog, however, with minimal, tick-tocky drums and a whole chaotic crunchy synth that takes over halfway through and sort of devours the Analog-era stuff. Meanwhile, creepy and ominous vintage sound design plagues the intro and breaks, creating almost a gothic and emotive feel even while the synths are futuristic it’s almost too much. The chaos of the giant planet Jupiter gives this track its namesake and sends the listener through a sonic black hole to this new Universe.
The album doesn’t back down from “Jupiter” in terms of chaotic organized noise, so listeners better have got their bearings in that black hole. The halftime beat of “Undo” just means Misanthrop can pack in more madness, static and eerie space sounds. Spaghettification, anyone? From there, “Into the Sun” is bit of relief with a surprisingly vibey, almost liquid (did we just use the term “liquid” in a Misanthrop review?) and musical tune, which, even though Misanthrop said he didn’t write this album for the dancefloor, will likely see its fair share of play during sunrise or sunset festie sets. This track midway through the album is a clear surrender and ties the two halves together. One probably would have to surrender in some way if one was being shot into the sun.
From there the chaos is somewhat stymied, with “Jitters” and “Triumph” more recognizably drum & bass, the slow techno of “Off Course” bringing some much appreciated atmospherics and album closer “Galaxy” a rolling, Tron-like rebirth of sound after the madness of the first half of the album. But there’s one track from that first half still looming.
Our YEDM premiere is “Alert,” another of the unfinished Analog tracks and easily the most recognizable early Misanthrop tie-in on the album. Lashings of “Desert Orgy” and “Sex Sells” will make neuro fans happy, although this track is decidedly not neuro. A bit of a respite amid all the experimental chaos of the first half of Universe, “Alert” is emotive, evocative and intense but doesn’t have all the harsh lines of “Jupiter” or “Undo.” It’s another solid dance track amongst all the experimental work of this album.
No one would blame a listener for taking a bit of time to listen to Universe; it’s a thinker of an album that’s meant to be considered as much as listened to. It’s still quite danceable, however, with tracks like “Alert” and “Into the Sun” likely already being played on dancefloors and punters wondering trying to track ID. Fear not, Misanthrop’s new Universe is almost here.
Universe drops this Friday on Misanthrop and Phace’s Neosignal imprint. Click here to pre-order or pre-save.