Image by Jerry Knies
It’s not unfounded to assume Oscar Mulero moves in tandem with the culture of the dance floor. Lockdown and the absence of spaces for his music to come alive seems to have been a time of frustration for the Madrid DJ and producer, at least according to his music. This makes sense, considering that his position is not simply as a mainstay on the Spanish the underground, but for a good while he was the Spanish underground. His new EP Mannequin not only arrives three decades into Mulero’s career, but also after what may be his longest hiatus from the pulse of a living nightclub. Mulero’s most active years in the early to mid-2000’s were ignited by the release of 1999’s recorded mix About Discipline and Education which saw contributions from electronic music’s then infallible tastemakers such as Jeff Mills. This year a would begin Mulero’s love affair with techno, and his ensuing plethora of releases explored the whole gamut of the genre, placing him at the forefront of Spain’s techno culture. The sonic shift of 2018’s Perfect Peace now seems startlingly ahead of its time, finding stillness between the propulsion and harkening back to Mulero’s early sets at THE OMEN which wove connections between the grimy ambience of Autechre and the throb of Mills. Mannequin is a sonic U-turn from Perfect Peace’s symbiosis of quiet and disquiet towards a total disruption that Mulero has been ruminating on for the past year.
Mannequin follows the sonic trajectory of last year’s equally restless Called Nature and the aptly titled Tormenta, forming a sort of abrasive body music triptych in Mulero’s discography. Mannequin is immediately more manic than Called Nature and a lot darker than Tormenta. Released via Suburban Avenue and ardently adopting the Italian label’s acid-goth aesthetic, Mannequin continues Tormenta’s rapid-fire energy while layering on the macabre. The EP opens with a simple command, Start To Move, and it’s impossible to disobey. The lead progression of Start To Move’s industrial clang slowly warps around a driving techno stomp that pulls you into Mulero’s underworld. It sets the tone for a deviantly sinister trip underground, demanding the slick swarth of bodies at 4AM in some sort of derelict warehouse. Area follows with sharp, glassy and indistinct plucks that oscillate in juxtaposition to a rising and falling percussive pattern to hypnotic and mind-altering effect. Clashes of reverb and passages of rise-and-fall make for a kinetic wave of a track that is full of icy tension. The title track opens with steely, distorted industrial sounds that form a sort of lurking undercurrent, constantly bubbling and transmuting beneath Mulero’s icy hi-hats, peaking out every moment or so to show a new, twisted face.
At only four tracks long, Mannequin makes the most of its short stay. The EP feels sequenced to cause chaos. From the pulsating rabbit hole of Start To Move to the somewhat primordial comedown of Straight Line, across its four tracks Mannequin conjures a succinct vision of a world and dance floor from Mulero’s mind. There’s a deft sense of sophistication to the music that makes it distinct from similar recent exercises by the likes of Schwefelgelb, a certain understanding of aesthetic as narrative that allows Mannequin to set up it’s basement rave wherever it may find itself. You can practically feel the dampness in the air and see the faded throb of a red strobe through fog. It’s the sort of conjuring that we, starved of these spaces in real life, desperately need. Thank the techno gods that Mulero unequivocally exists to create them.
Download Mannequin here, and preview the EP below.
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