Wednesday, February 28, 2001

Encore, encore

Posted By on Wed, Feb 28, 2001 at 12:00 AM

If Mozart were alive today, he’d probably be making electronic music. And for all we know, Tadd Mullinix is one of Wolfgang’s reincarnated protégés.

With his debut release, Ann Arbor’s Mullinix proves that he is an exceptionally hypertalented virtuoso of circuitry. Winking Makes a Face is a deeply personal statement, which makes the 22-year-old seem wise beyond his years. Fragmented beats, thick, wavy bass lines and pureed synth noises all work to create the album’s 10 classically arranged tracks. It’s not all penguin suits and batons, either. Winking… is a soulful, painfully honest trip through the back alleys of modern life.

“Minajor” introduces the album’s turbulent landscape with a rush of electric neurotransmitter activity, which slowly calms to reveal a symphony of introspective thoughts. “Lulla” lightly maneuvers its way through conflicting feelings of optimism and heartfelt loss, with delicate xylophone melodies and somber drum machine accompaniment. Later tracks such as “Commun Changement” and “The Letter” use stringy synth sounds with piano and harpsichord arrangements over incendiary percussion, showing that there is a lot of unexplored territory within IDM (the poorly named genre of Intelligent Dance Music).

Furthermore, Winking… is as rich and technically sophisticated an album as many of those by IDM’s chief innovators. On every level, this is a unique release for a U.S. artist, let alone one from the Detroit area. Inevitable comparisons to Aphex Twin, Mouse on Mars, Autechre and u-Ziq aren’t exactly fair; nor do they quite fit. After repeated listens, Mullinix’s modern classical sound seems more like Philip Glass and Brain Eno for the ’00s.

Featuring the inspired artwork of Michael Segal and photography of MT collaborator Doug Coombe, Winking… demands high volume, your full attention and a bottle of Advil in order to really get it. Soon your headache will ease into a smile, or maybe even a cheeky sort of wink.

E-mail Robert Gorell at letters@metrotimes.com.

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