I sometimes consider myself to be a misanthrope, someone who despises humanity as a whole. I often struggle to keep my negative thoughts and emotions in check and find it quite easy to revert back to negativity and to project it into hatred for the terrible acts mankind is enacting on a daily basis, whether it be to animals, the environment, men to women, one ethnic group trying to wipe out another… the list goes on.
I can only assume this is the mindset Michael Bräuningerwas in when he chose his artist moniker, as it has been clear that him and Phace aren’t shy about infusing their productions with social critique, being a few of the rare artists in Drum & Bass having the courage to do so. As the framework of an album leaves more room for musical exploration, as well as an opportunity to tackle themes of interest to the artist more in depth, one might assume that if anyone can do it, Misanthrop can be the Rage Against The Machine of DnB! Is that the case on his debut album? Let’s dive in and see…er…hear!
So this first solo album from Misanthrop has been a long time coming… and it was well worth the wait! The album is stylistically diverse, all the while brandishing Michael’s unique sonic signature. It is filled with really hardcore neurofunk bangers, but it also has very interesting departures from the heavy stuff, be it entire songs, like Minimalinski, The Funk and Notbot, or just sections of songs that create a very strong contrast to the balls out fury unleashed in every single drop! While he chose the latter option more often in the writing process of the album, the result makes for some of his best material to date! There is not a single moment where the excitement wears off and I think that is quite an accomplishment!
As for the social and political critique often present in his music, be it solo, with Phace or the Neosignal band, I didn’t get the sense that it was as omnipresent as on his 3 previous EPs, Collapse, I Need More and Greed Of Gain, where the music was an intrinsic aural representation of the song titles, and the message being communicated was a lot clearer. The only moment where this trademark political activism is felt explicitely is on the opening track Antimachine, which Michael has mentioned in a recent interview, was inspired by gentrification, with it’s opening dialogue being a satire of a politician’s viewpoint on the practice.
In another interview on UKF announcing the album, he mentions that he mainly wanted to create an album of songs aimed at smashing the dancefloor and he succeeds brilliantly at it! Every track bar the more experimental numbers mentioned above are Grade A bangers which, while relatively simple in their musicality (as is 90% of neurofunk at the moment), boast a production level that is impeccable in its controlled chaos. Every drum hits hard, every bass note tears the speakers apart and every song is laden with layers of intricately programmed and funky mutated sounds that keep us coming back for more!
Furthermore Misanthrop exhibits his penchant for off-kilter sounds that I dub the Neosignal Aesthetic, as heard on the project of the same name’s music and his and Phace’s output since 2012-2013. A perfect example of this is Trashriot, which sounds quite a bit like some of the songs on the Raum Und Zeit album remixed and mashed-up into a highly addictive piece of ear-candy!
Coming back to the epic intros and breakdown, which often differ stylistically quite a bit from the drops, a lot of them seem inspired by classic electro sounds, particularly Darknet – with its punctual chiptune arps and FM chimes – and Notbot, which develops into a strange, yet delightful foray into Electrostep.
I also must mention Heavy Load, which is definitely my favourite tune here, with its beautiful Vangelis-like intro and alarm-synth that reminds me of Depeche Mode’s A Pain That I’m Used To (and also to that moment in Kill Bill when villains appear and that bit of music from Quincy Jones plays). It is also probably the heaviest tune on the album, packing a devastating drop that is sure to make you lose your mind. It is the most Epic song on the record and oozes so much cinematic appeal that it should Misanthrop scoring the next Blade Runner film. It ends the album in a stunning way!
My second favourite is Rosebud, with its references to Citizen Kane, something most unexpected in any electronic music nowadays. Also very unexpected is its completely bonkers drop with a hardstyle inspired kick bass and a myriad of twists and turns that take us from incredibly brutal rhythms to mesmerizing synth-porn soundscapes in the blink of an eye.
In retrospect, this self-titled debut album from Misanthrop has been well worth the wait, showcasing the artist’s broad musical vision into a well balanced, devastating collection of bangers that are sure to rock clubs, parties, headphones, car stereos and pretty much every other sound system in the known universe for years to come!
This is an essential purchase and I can’t wait to hear more from you, Michael.