A new record from a project as acclaimed and revered as mind.in.a.box is bound to inspire discussion, and while it’s only a week old there’s already been a not insubstantial amount of well-argued talk about Revelations being Stefan Poiss and Markus Hadwiger’s best album. While I’m going to want to let this record settle for a while before I stake my name to that, it’s certainly their most warm and richly developed. Perhaps more importantly, it’s a record which manages to overturn several of the facile binaries we all too often rely on when talking about music: electronic and acoustic, real and simulated.
Revelations feels like a sea change in m.i.a.b’s aesthetic almost immediately. Atmospheres are more smokey, more occluded than before, despite the lack of the noir feel the narrative side of the project held on previous releases. While there are trademark m.i.a.b melodic builds, they’re nestled in lush lattices of pads and guitars which flesh things out in a new way. We’re a long way from the stark, almost clinical feel of Lost Alone (not to say that debut wasn’t emotional or affecting – the juxtaposition of its musical austerity and lyrical vulnerability was instrumental to its success). Revelations starts with “Remember”‘s dusty drum beat which could be live or could be programmed, but in the end it doesn’t matter; the emphasis on the distinction between reality and simulation which the band’s very name points to has slowly fallen away from the project album by album. (Might be time to rename the act “How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Decartes’ Demon“) The result is a seamless blend of electronic and acoustic elements which the band’s live show has been presaging for some time.
This blurring of lines also applies to the lyrical side of Revelations. More so than on any previous albums, the line between the personal dimension of the band’s work and the ongoing science fiction storyline (now in its fourth chapter) is blurred. “Cause and Effect”, “Control”, and “Not Afraid” could be read as being from either side of the project, deliberately so it could be argued: the clear distinction between heavily computerized, emotional lyrics and spoken narrative exposition has certainly been abandoned. Poiss’ advances as a vocalist are largely responsible for this, with his wider range allowing him to explore new territory, including the anthemic feel of classic futurepop records which Stefan intimated he wanted to revisit.
m.i.a.b’s songcraft is deeper on Revelations than it’s ever been before, in at least two senses: the tracks on Revelations hold together better than anything that’s come before, with each part inseparable from the song as a totality, but that unity is also crafted far more subtly than ever before, and it’s difficult to hear the record’s (numerous) strengths on initial passes through it. “Control” is a great example of this: it’s heavily layered but never feels dense, and as such it’s tempting to just focus on the chorus’ synth lead and powerful vocal without noting how many elements are flowing together wonderfully beneath the surface.
That need to lend care and attention to Revelations is perhaps the key thing to keep in mind as one approaches the record. There are no obvious club bangers, but hell, that’s why the remix EP’s dropping in six weeks, no? Instead, Revelations presents a better rounded, far more immersive dimension of a band who’d already had no trouble crafting a unique space for themselves from whole cloth. If you’re one of the many who’d been drawn to that space for the sensations it alone could offer, you owe it to yourself to give Revelations the time and space which is its due.