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Maymind - Cheap Storage Music Album Reviews

The Los Angeles techno producer’s second album is sharp and focused. Maymind does a lot with very little to make gratifying soundscapes that are easy to sink into.
The first solo material Leo Maymind released, in 2016, was torn between two competing impulses. On the one hand were rich layers of synths, sampled voices, and delay, all stretched and twisted like blown glass; on the other, muscular drum programming informed by techno and bass music. The record, a three-track EP for Adam Marshall’s New Kanada label, showcased a bold, burly sound, and one starkly at odds with what followed it: On last year’s Illumina, Maymind’s debut album, the Los Angeles producer opted to strip back, deliberately restricting himself to a modest tabletop setup of synths, drum machines, and effects, all run into a handheld recorder. It turns out that by imposing limitations, he opened up new avenues. The spacious Illumina patiently mapped ambient and broken techno landscapes in ways that weren’t always easy to follow, but all the more intriguing for it: indistinct outlines, foggy terrain, disappearing ink. Now, on the follow-up, he continues that line of investigation across eight tracks of an even more exploratory bent.

Where Illumina sometimes felt tentative and amorphous, Cheap Storage is sharper and more focused. The drums often took a backseat on last year’s album, but they’re more prominent here. That doesn’t mean straight techno—well, save for the opening “K Density,” in which thudding kick drums and a single, syncopated synth tone summon echo-soaked memories of warehouse raves. Maymind’s drums tend to be distant and echoing: “Loneliness and a Kick Drum” is held together with a steady clanking reminiscent of old radiators; “No Headlights, One Glove” rolls a single weathered snare sound out into the velvety dark. Its downbeat, wrapping slowed-down breakbeats in echoing synths, recalls Urban Tribe’s The Collapse of Modern Culture, an expressive beat-music touchstone from 1998; the tinny, loping “Loneliness and a Kick Drum” takes after the minimalist synth bleats that Antipop Consortium brought to underground hip-hop in the early 2000s. Those aren’t the only faintly throwback sounds here: The whirring, chirping noise at the center of “Cheap Storage” is a dead ringer for Garbage-era Autechre.

Like Illumina, Cheap Storage was made with limited materials, taking shape in improvised takes on MPC, synths, and an inexpensive vocal mic. Those conditions are often apparent in the music. Maymind’s jams don’t always do much—there’s not a lot of compositional complexity here; “Continuous Spectrum” merely paints woozy synth pads over slinky electro drums for nearly seven minutes—but they’re gratifying soundscapes to sink into, particularly when he layers overlapping rhythmic patterns in such a way that the downbeat disappears in a shifting, wrongfooted groove.

“From the Rooftop We Could See the Skyline,” a swirling, 150-BPM dub-techno cut, shows how small variations can go a long way. Synth parts subtly fade in and out; a few minutes in, the hi-hats rise in volume, doubled by delay, and what at first seems placid turns more strained as a distant, high-pitched voice pulls the track’s edges taut, the energy rising and falling in slow waves. In terms of intensity, the head-nodding “No Headlights, One Glove” falls at the opposite end of the spectrum, but its graceful, real-time arc is similar. Its unchanging boom-bap rolls on like a nighttime drive through empty streets, and, two-thirds of the way through, when a fistful of organ chords flares up, it makes for a moment of subtle but unmistakable drama, like brake lights splashed suddenly across a rain-slicked windshield.

Though Maymind never spells it out, I suspect there’s a creative philosophy tucked into the album’s title. Hard drives these days are voluminous and inexpensive; unlike the era of tape, there’s virtually no cost involved in capturing a musical idea, so might as well just keep the recorder running. Writers have a saying: “Write drunk, edit sober.” Even teetotalers can find a kernel of truth here: First, strip away all inhibitions, then go back with a critical eye and refine. Balancing freeform spontaneity with spotlit detail, Cheap Storage shows the merits of such an approach.

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