When last we heard from Mingo, he had crossed over the musical river, away from his dark-edged, often tribally toned electronic musings to dabble–quite well, it must be said–in the shinier realms of New Age. With The Blue Star he returns to refine the sound that resonated with me on albums such as The Once and Future World and The Light That Bends. And while I have enjoyed everything I’ve heard from Mingo over the years, I do have to say that I prefer him on this side of the river. The Blue Star deals in curtains of light-grey shadow, the pulse of percussion mixed with suggestions of EDM, and wafts of slow pads both comforting and ominous. After the opening track speaks its relatively quiet peace with long bass chords and a pleasant-if-mildly-haunted piano, Mingo nudges us toward the darker side of things. Don’t worry, there’s plenty of twilight to see by, and the murky stuff is well in the distance. “Narvi” uses percussion to give us our first hint of a primitive influence—less tribal than just organically simple and marking a nascent rhythm while long pads drone beneath it. A tone like bass flute comes in to underscore it before Mingo pulls a smooth shift and goes toward more of a spacemusic motif courtesy of big, shining pads. Two tracks in the middle of the release are where we pick up some vibrancy and that nod to EDM. On “Amida” Mingo folds percussion in over windy drones and keeps easing the intensity upward. Soon enough it’s chugging and churning like an industrial thing, its rhythm made entirely of pulses. It will catch hold of you and pull you along for a few minutes. Then comes this album’s money shot: “Omega Point.” I cannot stop listening to this. It’s got some Berlin pedigree, it’s got an amped-up electro-pop attitude, it drones, it hums, it moves from potential to kinetic and you barely feel the acceleration. What you do feel is the joy of the thing. It’s reveling in its old-school garb and it’s doing it without a lot of effort. At its high point, what you’re listening to are two notes, maybe three, just repeating their phrase as the drone forms beneath it very slightly change key. I hear so many 80s echoes in this piece. Probably why I adore it so. And it’s worth repeating that it does it in a fantastically minimal style. That’s what strikes me about The Blue Star—how much Mingo is able to convey using what amounts to very little movement. There’s a deceptive simplicity at work; the elements alone don’t do much, if you listen closely. They stretch. They repeat themselves. They hold a note. And yet, when they’re layered, out comes this fantastic dynamic even though you know it’s still not doing much. “A Glimpse of Dawn” is a perfect example. It pulses and throbs, it sends spirals of electro-squibble off into the air now and then like it’s testing something, it sings softly to itself. It’s also got texture, an odd energy, and a weirdly compelling tone. The title track grows patiently as you listen, with fresh layers of sound cleaving off and rising without your really noticing. Each new bit feels like it’s been waiting all along.
Repeat listens are a given with The Blue Star. It dovetails nicely into itself and each new listen seems to uncover one more secret. Its mix of space and primitive, dark and less dark, and its commitment to effective minimal structure has made it a personal favorite. Dive into this one immediately. Mingo is always worth listening to, and The Blue Star is him at his best.
Available from Mingosphere.