Oscar Mulero: Muscle and Mind /
Following album releases on his own Warm Up Recordings imprint (2011's Grey Fades to Green and 2012's Black Propaganda), Oscar Mulero returns to the full-length format with Muscle and Mind, this one issued on the Madrid-born techno producer's other label, PoleGroup. As one might guess, Mulero didn't choose the title arbitrarily, as it very deliberately references the presence of both cerebral and visceral elements in his tracks—music for the mind and body, as it were. Track titles such as “Mind-Body Interaction” and “Dualistic Concept” might suggest Mulero was boning up on Descartes during the production process, but no philosophy degree is required for the album's hard techno vibe to be appreciated.
In working a few ambient-styled moments into its seventy-minute framework (e.g., the plaintive, beats-free meditation “Mental Causation”), Mulero's fashioned Muscle and Mind in accordance with the artist album concept. “Dualistic Concept,” the second of Muscle and Mind's twelve tracks, is representative of Mulero's brand of classic techno—lean, muscular, and kinetic. Throbbing for the greater portion of its nine-minute running time, the cut, powered by a bass presence so huge it's cavernous, pulsates relentlessly, though it does shift gears during its closing minutes when the beats drop out. He brings the thunder on a number of other tracks, too, among them “Anatomical Variation,” with its cut-throat hi-hats and robust, house-styled swing, and the claps-driven “Mindful Body.”
While the deep bass throb that drives many of the tracks gives Mulero's music a primal character, there's no small amount of sophistication in the wide-ranging atmospheric sound design that provides a satisfying counterpart to the base physicality of the material. So while on the one hand cuts such as “Mentally Induced Action” and “Interrelated” include grooves so strong they feel indomitable, they also engage the intellect with industrial-dub cyclones, synth textures, and other stimulating swirl (the title track in particular tickles the ear with the rich sonic detail Mulero sprinkles across its bass drops). Interestingly, Muscle and Mind is obviously techno, stylistically speaking, yet a dub-informed aesthetic also appears to be a strong part of the package.
On paper, it might appear as if the release is comprised of two parts so a bit of clarification is warranted: the extra tracks included with the digital version of Muscle and Mind (which is also released in vinyl and CD formats) have also been made available in physical form as a half-hour EP; in essence, the five tracks on Dualistic Concept (four of them remixes) can be seen as a supplement to the album proper. A non-album original, “Stimulated Reflex,” opens the EP with a driving cut that distills the essence of Muscle and Mind into a single track, followed by remixes of three album cuts (including a SHXCXCHCXSH version of the title track and, most ear-catchingly, a light-speed treatment by Stanislav Tolkachev of “Mentally Induced Action”) and an EP-closing makeover of “Stimulated Reflex” by Tolkachev.