I Was Never Really There
Jan Dewulf’s work in Diskonnekted has always been praised for its high level of production and sound design, and so his on-again, off-again side-project Mildreda requires a fine touch. In order to be true to the roots dark electro from which it stems there’s a need for a certain coarseness, but artificially red-lining the mastering or muffling the production would seem like cheating. Dewulf’s no-BS programming and hi-def rendering of noise and textures on which dark electro was founded once again serves him well on I Was Never Really There, the second proper Mildreda LP.
Opener “Backfire” gets the charms and approach of the project across in short order – solidly thudding bass programming winding its way through spaciously arranged syncopated kicks, with synth pulses and bubbles cropping up to add flavour and dimension. Even when Dewulf’s taking a more austere and noisy approach, as on the Dive-like “Liasons Dangereuses”, he finds ways of fleshing things out: metallic scrapes ride a pulsing beat beneath sampled choral vocals. Speaking of Dive, no, your ears don’t deceive you – that’s Dirk taking a turn at the vocals on “Echoes”. It’s a bit of a star-studded affair, in fact, with Don Gordon adding some production to the grind of “Erased”, Cyan of The Eternal Afflict lending characteristically dramatic vocals to “Blame It On The Moon”, and Claus Larsen mastering the whole shebang.
Thematically, the emotional tone of classic dark electro is used to touch upon lockdown frustration (“Another wasted life, another wasted year”) and the artifice of online personae (“Inner Judgment”). But it’s ultimately personal betrayal and disappointment which thread through I Was Never Really There from the first to last track. A literal break-up record? Quite possibly, but Dewulf manages to keep things slightly cryptic (and thus more universal) while still clearly unloading some baggage.
As is occasionally the case with Diskonnekted, a few of the tracks on I Was Never Really There run a bit long, losing some of the punch and immediacy the programming works so hard to convey. There are plenty of things worse than having too much of a record that’s thoughtfully produced and delivers plenty of throwback kicks, though. Lots for classic dark electro heads to like here.