I’ve done a lot of thinking about A Long Bow and Warm Visions as a whole. In a way, I’ve realized that Warm Visions is a better blog name than I had originally thought. Ok, think about it: I really only focus on music that I really like here, right? Meaning I think of the music with warm regard. So, this is a blog of warmly-regarded things for people to read about. Eh? Sounds good right? I tried to nab “An Empty Bliss” as the URL but for some reason it was already taken. That also works in two ways, since it’s the name of an album I like a lot, and it’s also a nice descriptor for writing about music. It’s blissful, but not inherently so. Also, A Long Bow is definitely just a “music appreciation” post rather than a full on album review. I’m bowing in appreciation. I’m worshipping the subject. I like what I like, that’s for dang sure. And wow, just wow, do I like this EP here a whole bunch.
Cole M.G.N. is the artistic alias for Cole M. Grief-Neill, a producer, engineer, musician spectacular from LA. He’s been in the funk zone for a good while now through his own group The Samps while also having a hand in projects from artists like Ariel Pink, Julia Holter, Nite Jewel, NxWorries and Beck. To my knowledge, this self-titled EP from 2016 is his only solo work out there under more or less his own name. It’s quite the doozy of an EP, too. I can’t say I’ve heard anything like it.
Well, there is one entity that sounds similar and that’s The Samps, M.G.N.’s group from earlier in the 10s. The Samps’ collected work is small, but it’s unique enough that they’ve stuck in my mind since their debut EP in 2010. It’s completely blown out, unorthodox sample bending and groove pushing the whole way through. The grooves are heavy, people. Cole pulls sounds from things like bargain bin disco, quickly dissects only the tightest parts of a riff and repeats it until sufficiently lubed up, and then messes with its integrity. Slowing it down in parts, speeding it up, letting it sit on one note, cutting out the drums; everything under the moon to make the listener active and not complacent with a pleasant pattern.
This distorted approach to pop and funk is present on this EP as well, but there’s a different focus on sound this time. The main sound pool on here draws mostly from Southern rap, early 90s pop cliches, a little of the bargain bin disco mentioned earlier, and some Dâm Funk sexiness. The opener “I’m Crazy” runs on a chopped-up, syrupy Houston rap-esque vocal cut with a swinging, pitched-down vocal sample and overpowering amounts of bass. The bass sounds like it’s naturally blasting out of broken speakers, regardless of the volume it’s being played at or the quality of your own setup – earbuds, speakers, over-ear headphones, or actual broken speakers. It all sounds blown out and rattling, continuously cutting in and out of the mix like something’s seriously wrong. It could be an even more serious slapper of a song if it wasn’t for the frantic channel switching. But alas, it is in this amorphous, fuzzed-out specter of a form where it succeeds in being a bonafide blaster hit, perfect for speeding down a highway with cool shades. Perhaps it is the strangest thing that will yield the most “cool feelings” within someone.
The sliminess of “I’m Crazy” is followed up by “Unknown Powder,” a track that sounds like a continuation of the wild atmosphere of its predecessor, reciprocating many of its unique characteristics: the ignorant bass, the pitched-down vocal samples, and the overall dark & sweaty vibe. It’s when we reach “If U Let Me” when things really start heating up. Moving past the overflowing bass of the previous two songs, M.G.N. now is galavanting around a glitzy church of synth worship. The instrumental bops effortlessly despite its fractured nature, with synth stabs inverting erratically and splaying out among the fuzzy kicks, tinny snares and stuttering, metallic percussion. Every sound effect sounds like it’s flying in from out of bounds and landing in locations right on and around the beat. Nothing really comes out and proudly declares itself on the beat, but rather there’s a convenient array of sounds that congregate and volley around where the beat should be.
This track also moves away from using the chopped & screwed ghosts heard earlier by tapping into the talent a frequent M.G.N. collaborator, Nite Jewel. Her role on this song in substance is minimal, but is massive in scope. Among the shiny, chrome infrastructure of the instrumental, M.G.N. plasters the walls with fragments of Nite Jewel’s silky utterance of “if you let her.” The vocal take morphs into many beings here: in its full form on parade down the main strip of town, as pitch-bent mutations left to roam the backstreets, as chopped-up vowel sounds stuffed in nooks & crannies, and as inflated syllables echoing into the atmosphere like lost balloons. Anywhere you look among the rattling track you can find a shard of Nite Jewel’s voice, like a memory you’re trying to bury but keeps re-emerging with each new burst of stimuli. As demented as I make it sound, the track is a perfect summer romp, bottling up feelings of wistful abandon and spreading it over a dense, multi-faceted groove.
The final track, “Wrong Scenario,” is a fitting b-side to “If U Let Me,” much like how the first two tracks mirrored each other. They both feature similar percussion sounds and instrumental layouts, only this time Nite Jewel’s vocals are absent. It almost sounds like if you took the framework of “If U Let Me” and flipped it inside out. The jagged edges and seductive curves are all there, but in a rawer, more vulnerable state while the sound characters of the previous track are muffled and coming from inside itself. The whole thing wraps up as a satisfying collection of two incredible singles with corresponding b-sides that complement each other perfectly, in both strengths and weaknesses.
This EP marks the first solo outing from Cole M. Greif-Neill and is a perfect showcase of why we should be excited for pretty much anything he puts his hands on. His sound is unlike pretty much anything I’ve ever heard and has kept me coming back time and time again. It’s a bit difficult to track down everything he’s done since he’s usually an engineer or producer, but once you get a good sign he’s on something: snatch it up. Here’s his wikipedia page. A good place to start is to just listen to Nite Jewel. She’s great and a super skilled musician in her own right, but with this dude in the backcourt? Damn, now that’s a spicy combo. They’re also married, how cool is that? His work with Beck is great, too. I mean, he won a Grammy because of it. Aside from the Grammy, his singles from 2013 are HOT. He’s not on my favorite track of the bunch, “Defriended,” but “Gimme” and “I Won’t Be Long” are peak Beck tracks to peep out, especially for fans of Modern Guilt/The Information. If you listen to this EP and dive back into a few select singles from M.G.N.’s discography, you can pick up some of his sonic trademarks. I’m definitely hoping for more solo material from him in the future along with the production work. Once that happens, I assure you that you will hear about it here.