Proswell: Merck Mix 4

By including samplings of multiple artists' work, the first three Merck Mix releases hewed to the conventional template; the fourth follows a considerably different and in some ways more satisfying route. Marking the label's fifth anniversary, Merck Mix 4 features unreleased material by one artist only, Proswell (Chicagoan Jospeh Misra), and what one loses in artist variety, one gains in cohesiveness. It's also unlike a lot of mix sessions in that the tracks don't so much flow into one another as abruptly shift from one to the next without pause (a rare exception the transition from “SD0075” to “Felt”). Though there's a strong dance dimension to many tracks, it works equally well—maybe better—as a pure 'listening' experience. Proswell's effervescent, analog-heavy, and occasionally acidic approach is brightly showcased throughout, with much of the set teeming with sparkling electro-synth melodies and punchy beats (a dichotomy clearly heard in “Maleducado” where dirty breaks meet billowing synth lattices). There's ample contrast too; compare, for instance, the writhing, serpentine groove of “bf -1” to the slamming disco pulse that steamrolls through “Porous Discoclash” and on into “What you say!!” Though most tracks are in the one- to two-minute range, each makes a lasting enough impression before ceding the spotlight to the next (the loose drum breaks that recall Wagon Christ in “Hangup” a perfect example). Best of all, Merck Mix 4 features twenty-one tracks and, though that's still a generous number, it's not so many that the whole sacrifices coherence (a weakness that bedeviled the third outing when its humungous forty-six track listing became an exhausting blur by its end).

May 2005