Mindflower is a true early ambient techno classic, full of space and imbued with that curious 90’s cosmic glow. The fantastically layered melodies are crafted from crystalline textures and soft, soaring synths comparable to the best music of similar acts of the era like Kim Cascone’s Heavenly Music Corporation.
Human Mesh Dance
country of origin:
Ambient techno/trance, psychedelic, spacemusic, electronica
- Hyaline (1993, Instinct)
- Mindflower (1994, Instinct)
- The Secret Number Twelve (1997, 12K Records)
Reviewed by Mike G
For a brief time in the 1990’s the New York City based label Instinct Records was source of some of ambient techno's most magical and enduring music. NY resident Taylor Deupree’s role in this story was a significant one. Both his music and the evocative album cover designs he did for the sub-label Instinct Ambient were as important to Instinct's aesthetic as was Kim Cascone’s vision for Silent Records, a kind of sister label which - in its own way - rode the same ambient techno-trance wave over in San Francisco.
Deupree recorded solo and collaboratively under a number of different pseudonyms during these years. His three solo albums as Human Mesh Dance are the ones that most strongly embody the spirit of post-rave 90’s ambient. The HMD sound is clean and precise but warmed by ravishing melodies and haunting chord progressions. It’s machine music with grace, a gently psychedelic sound that simultaneously relaxes the body and stimulates the mind.
Of the three HMD albums his debut Hyaline (1993) bears the most obvious debt to early rave music, being surprisingly uptempo in places with beats upward of 140bpm. The beats become numbingly repetitive on at least one track - drum programming from this era sounds tinny enough as it is - but on others the kick-drum remains light and allows the composer a degree of subtlety. Best of these is “Transient” on which a soaring, mysterious, slow-motion synth line floats above a percussive maelstrom to stunning effect. Offsetting the album's more intense moments are some breathtakingly beautiful slowbeat numbers like “Sunflower”, a taste of what would come to full fruition on the next album.
Mindflower (1994) is a true early ambient techno classic, full of space and imbued with that curious 90’s cosmic glow. The fantastically layered melodies are crafted from crystalline textures and soft, soaring synths comparable to the best music of similar acts of the era like Kim Cascone’s Heavenly Music Corporation. The track titles are tantalising and highly visual - “Wet Moon”, “Skyflower” “Nerve Crystal”- and the pace varies from smooth robot funk to the beatless rhapsodies of the album’s last quarter. Mindflower is an album full of wide-eyed-wonder, a product of its time but genuinely timeless.
The final HMD album was the beguiling Secret Number Twelve (1997), the debut release on Deupree’s own 12K Records. In hindsight it’s quite atypical of the less accessible and avant-garde output that 12k would soon become known for. It retains much of the pretty and ethereal qualities of Mindflower even though it's a little darker and more ambiguous than its predecessors. An alien atmosphere is especially palpable on “In Pools” with its eerie arpeggio and hovering, swooping synths.
During this period Deupree also recorded as one half of the duo SETI which released at least two fine albums of ambient spacemusic with a 90's techno bent. But then, like Kim Cascone from Silent Records, he moved away from psychedelic ambient to more experimental, atonal and glitchy realms, part of a wider trend in techno-influenced electronica after the 1990's in the USA, UK and Europe. Meanwhile, Instinct Records largely abandoned electronic ambient sounds after the late 90's in favour of nu jazz, reggae and more mainstream fare.