mon 15/07/2024

Album: Jeff Mills - The Eyewitness | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Jeff Mills - The Eyewitness

Album: Jeff Mills - The Eyewitness

40+ albums in and the Detroit luminary is still creating bamboozling mesmerism

'A musical sophisticate'

Jeff Mills has always been a musical sophisticate. Even in the early 90s when he was best known for derangedly pummelling techno DJ sets in the most insalubrious of sweat-pits, and even though his minimalist production style back then was used as a blueprint by the most mindless of producers, the artistry to what he did was always mind-boggling.

And ever since, as he’s worked with orchestras, jazz bands and the late Afrobeat drum wizard Tony Allen, he’s continued to produce a frankly baffling volume of music, all while gigging and DJing the world over.

At 61, he has 40+ albums under his belt, mostly on his own Axis label – this, in fact, is his second of the year so far, following The Trip: Enter the Black Hole in March. As ever there’s a conceptual framework here; where The Trip was cosmological and spiritual, the language around this one is psychological and political, digging into themes of trauma, surveillance and oppression. But though that might imply darkness, this is no harrowing industrial grind – rather, it’s meditative and eerily beautiful.

Ever since he had his early techno works performed by the Montpellier Philharmonic Orchestra on Blue Potential in 2006 – pre-empting, and creatively eclipsing the recent trend for orchestral transcription sof dance classics – Mills has done a lot of bridging the space between electronic performance and Steve Reich-ish minimalism, and this contains some of his best work in this zone yet. There’s a lot of rippling geometry of synth arpeggiation playing off string patterns, creating interference patterns as they slip in and out of coherence, or playing tricks with your expectations as on “Wondrous Butterfly” where it’s hard to tell if the rolling piano and chime pattern is cycling or meandering to new places.

It’s extremely tough to rate this – the way these shifting patterns flicker and move around you make them more like an environment than a performance, and those interference patterns encourage so much projection from the listener’s mind, the experience changes on every single hearing. This tricksiness, though, is exactly what makes it so magical – and for a musician so far into their career and so constantly prolific to be doing something so weirdly enchanting is really quite something.

@joemuggs

Listen to "Those Who Work Against Us":

The way these shifting patterns flicker and move around you make them more like an environment than a performance

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Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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