Nightmares on Wax produces some of the best head-nodding, foot-tapping, chilled-out downtempo tunes you could ever hope to find. Mind Elevation, their fourth LP, will calm your nerves, relax your body, and chill out your very soul.
There’s two types of tracks on Mind Elevation: rhythmic chilled grooves with a heavy emphasis on percussive backbeat fills, and slightly more uptempo tracks with R&B and Soul-style vocals. Let’s take a look at a couple examples of both.
Mind Eye, the first track on the album, kicks off the “rhythmic chilled grooves” style of tracks with an intro that slowly builds in volume, with the main groove eventually making itself heard around the 48 second mark. A simple bassline and digital piano line make up the main bulk of the sound, which is sprinkled with a couple of random quick vocal samples. A tambourine provides a a backbeat fill, while a a small tom (or possibly cross-sticking) are heard on the third beat. After a quick bridge, a new piano line and a string instrument shows up around the 2 minute 27 second mark, whose note progression makes an appearance throughout the rest of the song. This one is the very epitome of a chilled-out track, and gives you a good idea of what awaits you on the rest of the album.
Date with Destiny
Unfortunately, Youtube only has a crappy-quality version of this song that doesn’t even include the whole thing, so I decided to not embed it at all. Date with Destiny is the first track on the album that has an actual set of lyrics. This is a very weird song: the lyrics seem to be mostly about abstract ideas like hate, opportunity, time, confidence, and others as anthropomorphic things that you can physically interact with and control. The music itself is unremarkable, serving merely as a way to keep the beat for the oddball lyrics. The exception to this is a heavily filtered sample of what almost sounds like either a baby goat or a baby human cooing. As with pretty much every other track on the album, the backbeat is given a strong emphasis in the overall structure of the groove that’s heard throughout the track.
Say-Say is another “rhythmic chilled groove” type of track. It not only places a heavy emphasis on the backbeat, but also on the downbeat. The song starts with a hi-hat that hits on every beat (with an occasional open hit), but there’s also a snare and a quick synth hit that occurs on every other third beat; the snare also appears right after each open hit of the hi-hat (so the progression is snare|open hi-hat|snare.) A few measures into the song, the quick synth hit changes to a full blown riff, consisting of a few different synths. This full blown riff also changes the focus from every other third beat to every downbeat and third beat. This eventually changes to emphasis placed on every beat, with a different note and/or sample appearing in the very front of the mix in time with the beat. Purely from a musical construction standpoint, Say-Say is one of the more complicated tracks on the album. It also happens to be one of the most enjoyable to listen to!
70s 80s is another vocal-filled track. In it, the singer waxes nostalgic about being a “70s baby/early 80s child”, and all the things that includes. Even though it’s about a time that’s a little before me (I was born in ’84), I can still feel the nostalgia seeping through the vocals. Much like Date with Destiny, this one is fairly basic from a music standpoint, serving primarily to keep the vocals on pace. One area this one is different from Date with Destiny is that it sounds as if the vocals were written with this particular beat in mind, whereas Date with Destiny sounds like it could have gone with just about any other beat on the album. The way certain lyrics in 70s 80s are accentuated, and the timing of said accents, fits together with the overall song structure in a much neater fashion than what you hear in Date with Destiny.
I have some amazing memories associated with this album: Released in the fall of 2002, I had graduated high school just a few months prior, and was spending a ton of time (every weekend, and at least once or twice during the week) with a big group at a friend’s house. Magic the Gathering, Smash Bros Melee, and some other activities I won’t get into was our modus operandi. This album was not only perpetually on repeat in my vehicle at the time, but also while I was playing Magic the Gathering Online. Mind Elevation is now inextricably linked to that time of my life, which contains some of the happiest memories I have.
Whether you have nostalgic feelings for this album or not, there’s no denying the infectious grooves and impressive musicianship on tap here. I highly recommend you check it out in its entirety.