STALACTIVE s/t ESP INSTITUTE
Stalactite is a collaborative recording project by renown Japanese artist and multi-instrumentalist Susumu Mukai AKA Zongamin and producer Drew Brown, whose discography ranges from his own group Off World to a variety of integral productions for artists such as Blonde Redhead and Beck. Their self-titled debut for the ESP Institute is a grand gesture, a broad stroke that illustrates both singular focus and vast complexity, which is no easy feat considering the almost oppressive immediacy and availability of tools at the disposal of contemporary artists. There’s a level of creative confidence and discipline needed to work so fundamentally, and whether or not the listener has an appetite refined enough to process the tasteful subtleties throughout this production, these same subtleties accumulate regardless and land that listener in a highly considered and developed space. The deceptively naive melodic approach consistent across these nine tracks can feel transparent, familiar to a point the listener can anticipate its path, but when listening with acute focus we find a variable range of texture, temperature, depth and negative space. As alumni of the Minimal, Cold Wave, Synth Pop era, Susumu and Drew successfully personify a motley crew of synthesizers to work in concert, reduced to their core personalities and presented as their most honest selves — austere, shy, cinematic, percolating, bulbous, glistening, cantankerous, rubberized, clumsy and animated. Each masterfully paired with complimentary counterparts, these players assemble into a sound-stage we typically find in live recordings, enveloping and inviting us to the center of an acoustic cavern to wade through sonic impressions of monolithic stalactites.