The Lights Out EP last year confirmed the kind of evolution undergoing within the music of UK electro rockers MiXE1 whilst also hinting at the potential of the band’s impending and eagerly anticipated debut album. Uncaged June 1st, Starlit Skin shows that those suggestions were strong and truthful whispers to its new and enthralling tempest. Originally the band started as a solo project by vocalist/songwriter Mike Evan, a ‘soft spoken’ proposition which caressed and seduced the senses whilst growing in strength and stature not forgetting reputation with every release. Now with the album as its evidence, the Hatfield trio without losing any of its mesmeric passion and floating melodic persuasion has transformed into a snarling bordering on ravenous provocateur of synth rock.
Starlit Skin is a masterful encounter which plays like an eye of a storm, its evocative peace and radiant beauty encircled by a tempestuous incitement of intimidating guitars and imposing rhythms encased in a turbulence of passion and intensity. In hindsight you can see its triumph was an inevitable landmark on a continuing journey but at first touch it is a surprising and dramatic proposition which swiftly has hunger bred and intrigue lit for its emotive adventure. It is a striking flight for the band which began in 2010 as mentioned with Evans (ex-guitarist of alt-metal band Broken Butterfly X). Experimenting with electronics aligned to his smoothly lying and emotionally expressive vocals, Evans released debut EP Module 01 to strong reactions especially sparked by the eagerly devoured track Breathe. Linking up with Static Distortion Records, the Module 02 EP followed in 2012 again to eager acclaim as the richly personal songs showed a growth in confidence, maturity, and sound. It also marked the start of a more aggressive essence to MiXE1 epitomised by This Is Not Goodbye, a song which became a firm favourite with fans and the underground media. That same year the band expanded with Evans bringing in guitarist Lee Towson and drummer Lee O’Brien (formerly of Indie-Rock band Load), the move the signpost to the exploration of a rawer rock element to the band’s music. The Lights Out EP provided potent signs of that evolution but against Starlit Skin, was just a mere suggestion which is now vivaciously vocal in the eleven track all-out electronic rock encounter.
The album opens with a warning, a declaration of a wide spread evacuation which opens the way for voracious riffs and rampaging rhythms to charge down the scenery, sinews resonating and nostrils flaring as Talking In Our Sleep explodes in the ear. Immediately gripping the band’s new single soon settles into a more ordered gait upon which Evans unveils his vocals and narrative. His voice is as melodic and warm as ever but certainly caught in the thrust of the energy around him. As the track expands with Evans’ synths shaping the atmosphere as both Towson and O’Brien keep on their sturdy course, the track brings thoughts of Ghost In The Static meets Johnny Wore Black. Its chorus is pure infectious virulence, an anthemic call flush with enticing melodies perfectly contrasted and accentuated by a guttural growl which creeps in the vocals, all creating a roaring moment to craft a climactic treat within the otherwise compelling body of the impressive opener.
Break You Down swaggers in next, keys and guitars weaving a transfixing yet intimidating dark haze to which Evans croons magnetically whilst again slipping in the caustic squalls as introduced in its predecessor. Riffs and hooks capture the imagination as much as the melodic breezes evocatively colouring the intensive breath of the track, each combining for an easily accessible but unpredictable incitement. Though the natural warm delivery of Evans is the lead lure to songs, the use of abrasive textures and expulsions in his voice is an inspired and exciting twist which is matched and coaxed eagerly by the guitars and rhythms.
Both the emotive We’ve Changed and the following title track keep the imagination thrilled whilst offering new diversity to the release. The first soars across the senses with elegant charm and invasive melodies framed by a muscular appetite, though one happy to simply skirt the sultry smouldering heart of the absorbing personal venture whilst its successor explores a slight eighties synth pop spice within its reflective melodic wrap around the senses. There is a tint of Modern English and Depeche Mode to the song which only enhances its poetic wash of sound and expression, whilst again with more restraint than the first song it brings crescendos which infectiously grip and inflame thoughts and emotions.
The next up Plug Me In Tonight with its discordant brew of electronic agitation and probing within a mist of melodramatic synths makes a promising entrance but one which whilst growing into a thought provoking canvas lacks the impact and spark which caught ablaze within the previous songs. Nevertheless it has attention and appetite healthily poised for the pleasing electronic stomp of Here, a song with techno tendencies and synth pop revelry. It is another where the chorus recruits the listener’s feet and vocal chords, though around these moments the track’s shadows are more of a portentous breath, which Towson lights up with his invention, than an incitement to dance. It makes for a richly satisfying and appealing fusion which is then put in the shade by the bordering on antagonistic Image. Thumping rhythms and voracious hues assault first as keys spot their provocation with electronic shards before without losing its stalking ferocity the track opens with the continually impressive tones of Evans and fiery strikes of guitar imagination. It is a tremendous web of invention which instantly has ears gripped and passions sparking. The best track on the album it is unrelenting in its force, invention, and predacious hunger whilst providing a bewitching landscape of thought and imagination.
The Show takes the raw rapacious side of its predecessor to new levels whilst merging it as expected with mouthwatering melodies and vocals courted by electronic sunspot. Riffs and rhythms seem bestial as the synths seduce and smooch their evocative colours upon the senses, thoughts of The Browning freeing themselves in some ways to the predation. It is another glorious pinnacle showing the depths and suggesting the potential of the band still to be fully explored and exposed which All 4 U in its own distinct way supports. It is not as potent as certainly the previous two tracks but employs all of the already unveiled strengths of the album in another captivating storm, though the truly guttural vocal spewing which occasionally erupt arguably do not work. It is the beauty and the beast delivery from Evans which is an unbridled success for us not the demonic causticity, his voice just too nice to succeed.
Airwaves brings the album to an excellent absorbing and emotionally haunting end, though there is a decent enough Beat Version of Talking In Our Sleep as a bonus track with great female vocals from Amie Morandarte-Evans for extra spice. Starlit Skin is a commandingly impressive and thrilling encounter; a major step forward for MiXE1 but one suggesting there is still plenty more to come, a rigorously and irrepressibly exciting thought for us and the electro rock scene.
Starlit Skin is available @ http://mixe1.bandcamp.com/album/starlit-skin
Check out an interview with MiXE1 @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2013/08/05/brewing-melodic-fire-an-interview-with-mixe1/
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