Review: Mutate – Circle 2 EP

Mutate - Circle 2 - Blank Code

Circle 2 arrives as a pair of edits of an original track by Detroit’s Mutate, packaged along with three remixes. Per usual, this collection is being released alongside a slew of events taking place at The Works (ranging from Material Object to Drumcell), a whirlwind of production and promotion condensing into what we’ve come to know as “Blank Code.”

“Circle 2 (Machined)” is the original single of the release, coming in with a more raw, heavy feel than it’s clean-yet-dubby “Circle 1” predecessor. Seemingly designed for the big dark rooms that Blank Code’s sounds usually inhabit, a massive kick is overlain with a lightly distorted drone and slushy hi-hats. Some chords slowly fade in, followed by high frequency noise wails. Overall, this track sounds like a bright, wintery version of the style we’ve come to expect from producers like Silent Servant – droney, noisy, repetitive, and intensely gratifying. Mutate’s “Quantum Foam” edit of the track is heavily contrasted with the “Machined” version, entering with soaking wet dubby vapors, and sporadic metallic echoes. The track remains in a dubbed-out reverie for it’s duration, calling to mind a sedated haze.

The Plankton remix begins with an intentionally hollow feel, as more ghostly atonal drones loiter around a gritty, simple percussive base. But over time, the track evolves into a dysphoric, rushing, screaming techno stampede. It is horrifying in a way that does not come off as contrived, and retains a sense of brutal clarity despite the complex layering of sounds employed in it’s design.

The Project 313 remix┬ácalls to mind contemporary classics like Truncate’s “Mira Mar.” Cavernous kick drums fill a black, empty space occupied only by a reverent sustained chord and raspy, hallucinatory machine scrapes. The track calls to mind some sort of apocalyptic desperation, like a nihilist’s last breath spent on a prayer.

The final remix on the release is that of Alberto Pascual, and it is safe to it’s the only version with any sort of groove element. Cold, unpolished chord stabs seem to function both as melodic components and as elements as the percussion. But staying true to the uncomfortable, uncanny nature of the rest of the EP, the chords are juxtaposed with a detuned drone subtly pumping to the beat.

Overall, I think that this release has definitely lived up the high standard set by Blank Code in their first two releases. The Plankton mix in particular makes me want to further investigate this producer, as it truly leaves an impression on the listener. I also feel that I admire Mutate’s work even more than I did after Circle 1. He’s able to produce so well for both the dancefloor and the armchair; I believe that is a rare gift reserved for those with true studio mastery and absolutely erudite knowledge of electronic music.