Mantrix – Neoteric (Sub)

Posted in Reviews 2007 by - December 02, 2007

When Melbourne duo Mantrix announced a few months back that their project was coming to a close, it was simultaneously sad and controversial. Representing the interests of music and all that is good™, your erstwhile psyreviews immediately gave them a quite-drunk lecture as to why they shouldn’t quit. And as so frequently happens in life, I didn’t manage to change a damn thing.


Their last album Universal was possibly one of the greatest little slices of an artist’s evolution since Logic Bomb nailed their sound with 2001’s Unlimited. Mantrix had shed a layer of their minimal, tribal skin and had embraced old Goa, and created a uniquely organic sound that was as authentic as it was cliché-free. And they are also one of the few acts that can look you in the eye when they say they play live: it’s all there on stage, live percussion, live synths, live everything. And bags of energy.


Neoteric comes at a time when the world was just starting to wake up to Mantrix. It compares favourably to Universal: it’s more varied, more experimental, has fewer samples, and the overall sound is a little more polished. Undercurrent sees them swagger effortlessly into their full-bodied organic sound, before melodies weave themselves in across the top of a tight percussive backbone. Solid State Logic is an exercise in sonic foreplay: the outdoor, bush-friendly skeleton that characterises most of the track is accented with ethereal melodies before it strips back to hooked vox, and escalates perfectly to a restrained climax.


I find echoes of Sensient in End Of Time – that elastic, spongy platform works well in slomo fullon trousers, and the perfectly-balanced synth lines keep things perched, poised. And while you’ll either love or hate the Germanic vocals on Come Get Some, the rude n’ raw 303 will definitely put a smile on your face.


By contrast, much of Interconnector sounds uninvolved and posturing. The final third saves it, but even then the predictable chord changes ensure that that you’ll have to look a little harder to find even just a glimpse of that special “Mantrix” something. Infinity (Remix) is a rework of Pitch Shifter’s Running Away and is decent stuff: melodies sit well together, the progression is fun, and the swirly melody at the end is pure bread n’ butter psychedelic trance. Less compelling is the presence of “that” trance guitar, and a central spine of vocals that I personally find a little too stressed and punky.


Mantrix romp back to form with a remix of Snog’s Turn On Your Brain. With both the source material and their own re-interpretation clearly delineated, it’s powerful stuff – and that’s before you factor-in Snog’s vocalist, a fat bassline, and a barking 303 that’s more a call to revolution than a call to stomp your feet. Fucking bloody brilliant amazing fucking bloody.


To round things off, Shine combines the caustic with the shitkicking into a compelling bit of slutty electro, although I’d pay double to hear a version without the vocals over the top.


In many ways, Neoteric is pure evidence as to why Mantrix decided to call it a day. This is the sound of a duo at their peak, who have mastered psytrance. It’s less consistent than their previous stuff, but this lack of consistency is evidence of their growth as musicians and as artists. You genuinely get the impression that you’re listening to producers getting bigger than the music they’re making. Which is not to say becoming big-headed, or becoming complacent, or becoming bored.


In the space of two short albums released in two short years, Mantrix have given psychedelic trance that glimmer of hope that it had been looking for. Even though they’ve hung up their drumsticks, their music will continue through the next wave of young producers who, if there’s any justice in the world, will consider Mantrix an influential milestone.

This post was written by psyreviews