[sic] Magazine

Mike Allen – Mold

These days rarely can I use a simple genre descriptor or two to succinctly convey what you might be able to expect from an album. There are some that no amount of genre-lising can easily sum up. Thus, the following is a haphazard mouthful, but also pretty well manages to hit the mark.

Mike Allen ‘s Mold is experimental, ambient electro-industrial with elements of darkwave, shoegaze, metal, acoustic folk, and, every so often, a touch of dream pop. If one pays attention to influences, which I occasionally do, there’s about a hundred of them listed under that heading over on his MySpace page (that’s a guesstimate, I didn’t count). While interesting to note individually, I take it as a general indication that all experiences have the capacity to affect and influence in one way or another. Either that or there’s a little too much going on. It could well be a bit of both.

Mold covers a fairly broad spectrum of emotions, certainly at least vocally. At times beautifully mild and melodic, other times there is no mistaking the anguish or anger – even when fuzzed-up and static. It’s when those emotions are properly matched by the accompanying music that Mold really strikes a chord.

Following the suitably ominous opening instrumental ‘Hell’, ‘Decomposition Requisition’ presents a bit like a show reel, containing at one point or another just about all of the aforementioned elements, which elsewhere are generally broken down over individual tracks. Surprisingly, it works, because each element is clearly pronounced and with decisiveness. Over the remaining 11 tracks, that conviction seems to waver. There are some lovely flourishes throughout, but I fluctuate from completely understanding and appreciating the point, to being disengaged entirely – the purely ambient moments tend to seep away rather than seep in like I want them to.

‘Figures’ takes just a little too long to arrive at what appears to be an ethereal, slow-motion circus carnival, but it keeps its distance and therefore isn’t quite as creepy as it could be. ‘Bible Cancer’ suffers slightly from a similar lag – I dig the outright ambient drone behind the industrial percussion, but it’s repeated for longer than necessary and it isn’t until 3/4 the way through that the song shifts pace and reveals what feels like its true form.

The underlying metallic synths, buzzes, sound effects and percussion are used in all the right moments, but often overriding that is a persistent use of what I can only describe as an X Files -like whistling tone. Despite its lightness and occasional subtlety, it’s just too high-pitched to mesh most of the time it’s used. ‘Found and Lost’ would be the welcome exception to that, but after a few listens to the album the tone started to get to me and ultimately distracted from what I really wanted to pay attention to. I quite liked the predominantly acoustic ‘Lazy Demons’, but can’t help thinking it would be better served without the additional “bells and whistles”.

Mold seems to cycle between nurturing, struggling with, and compensating for the complexities of insecurity. It is an album of which Mike Allen is the definitive centre of, at times reaching out from, only to then retreat back into. On ‘Phagocyte’, he repeats “I’d like to know where I am”. Me too, because there are some wonderful moments where I’m right there in that world, followed by moments I’m left completely out of it – which is a shame because most of what I saw while I was there was really quite cool.