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The Journey of the ‘Dead Mystics’ From Bloomington’s !mindparade
“When I made this record, I was feeling frustrated with psych-rock. I felt like so much of it was derivative and repetitive. Dudes jamming on guitars. Repeat. So many people seem to just be copying what happened in the past. They call them ‘revival’ bands. I call it re-hash.”
The creations that escape the mind of Bloomington, IN based musician Alex Arnold are far from vintage psych duplicates. After growing up on a steady selection of earlier prog greats such as Frank Zappa, Pink Floyd and Yes, and venturing into personal appreciation for modern/post-modern classical composers like Debussy, along with avant-garde jazz greats such as Ornette Coleman, one becomes curious imagining the sonic complexities that formulate from such eclectic tastes. Following his experiments with musical computer manipulation techniques in his teens, Alex went on to study music theory and earn a B.A. in Music Composition, focusing on avante-garde composition techniques, electronic music, and orchestral writing. After listening to his newest album Dead Mystics (which was released last month) from his aptly named experimental project !mindparade, the feeling that I’ve been given a peek into the thoughts of a mad genius cannot be denied. No re-hash here.
“I wanted to express that you can embrace beliefs and ideas without being a slave to them. You can balance your own inner truth with the great philosophies and systems of the past. They don’t have to be mutually exclusive” Arnold shares. The opener “See You” dives headfirst into this wisdom, with the dogma shattering insights “Saw right through it, poison apple” and “Up against the wall, it’s you who chooses”. The song builds off of a tight smattering of drums and a thunderous riff, yet maintains an ethereal downtempo delivery with an array of synths and effects that lightly tug you into the ether. It’s clear that composition is important to Alex, each layer intentionally placed to reflect off of it’s surroundings.
Another standout is “Somehow Part I & II”, the longest take on Dead Mystics. The track serenades you into a syrupy, codeine dreamland, sweetly progressing into a cloudy groove that features a rap by fellow Bloomington creative Beverly Bounce House. There is an element of surprise weaved into the identity of the album; around every corner a glitching vocal take, shooting lazer, or seamless transition in mood to keep your listening mind actively engaged in it’s reverie. “The Coming Home” is sure to please fans of celebratory baroque/experimental pop such as Of Montreal and Yeasayer. Featuring subtle drone escapes, a yearning bluesy guitar and a frolicking flute, the lyrics “Guess I must be coming home” retell the journey of Arnold’s forming of !mindparade.
In the early days, !mindparade served as a solo venture while Arnold was completing his degree. After putting out an EP and backpacking through Europe, !mindparade started calling him back to the states. “Some Bloomington bands took notice and started emailing asking about booking !mindparade for shows. I said sure, came back to Bloomington, and in 3 weeks recruited my friends to help flesh out the sound as a live act. Honestly I think if that hadn’t happened, I may have stayed in Berlin and not come back at all- I was heavily considering it at the time.” The group released their first full length effort, Everything is Happening in 2012.
The artwork for the album originated from Alex’s travels. “I was living in India a few years ago, and walking along the beach on the Indian Ocean with my host brother outside the city of Chennai. This picture floated up from the tide right to my feet, a painting of 3 figures on a piece of wood. The figures’ faces, hands, and feet looked as if they had been burned away. I asked my host brother what it was. ‘This is a picture of God,’ he said. ‘Fishermen out at sea burn incense on the painting and use the ash to mark themselves.’ This !mindparade album is about cultivating a personal mysticism outside of pre-existitng dogmas or power-structures, hence the title Dead Mystics.”
Recently, Alex collaborated with the exuberant Diane Coffee (aka Sean Fleming, the touring drummer for Foxygen), contributing horns on his solo debut Everybody’s a Good Dog. “That was a lot of fun. I met Shaun in a bar in Bloomington, and we chatted a bit about music…..I always love the recording process and working with different people- you get to see other’s little quirks in their creative process. Shaun is really sure of what he wants and kept a good positive momentum through the session, we cranked it out pretty quick!”
The Bloomington local scene is thriving these days. “That is one of the coolest parts about Bloomington, how much music comes out of here. I guess it’s maybe because IU is a really great music school, and we’ve got the cool labels … and there’s a lot of good venues: it seems like it’s just this really awesome cesspool of talent.” Diane Coffee told NUVO in October. Another one of the city’s treasures is Ladycop, the main project for !mindparade keyboardist Chelsea Sherman (which Alex also is a part of). He’s also in Jefferson St. Parade Band and Black Acid Arkestra (both are jazz explorations).
Dead Mystics was released on Bloomington indie label Tree Machine Records, which was founded by !mindparade member Zack Anselm. “The label was my way of rebelling against ‘The Machine’ and finding peace of mind during an extremely complicated part of my life by connecting with musicians and redeveloping my understanding of the life around me” he divulged.
The epic last track on the new album, “Show You”, shines light into Alex’s ultimate resolve, celebrating his otherworldly visions of being a lizard and encountering aliens as he sings “I could show you that you’re not alone”. The album feels both personal yet eternal, and is a very solid chapter in what will hopefully be a continuing legacy for the group.
My two biggest passions are underground music and permaculture. Interested in deepening the conversation around mind expansion and personal/collective de/evolution through the arts. Contributor to Fuzz Club Records and psychrock.com View all posts by psychosparkle