I don't know what it is about people using symbols in their monikers, but ::M∆DE:IN:HEIGHTS:: seem to have pulled it off pretty well, with some stunning album art to match. 'APORIA: IN THESE §TREETS' is an eleven track EP, consisting of six songs and then instrumental versions of five of them. The brainchild of producer Sabzi, of hip hop duo Blue Scholars fame, and New York vocalist Kelsey Bulkin, this collection of 'mythical filth pop' is the outfit's second effort. The first dropped way back last December, entitled 'Winter Pigeons', and wasn't executed half as well as this. The majority of tracks were either remixes of well-known numbers or instrumentals, and the original songs danced an uncertain medley of styles. It was a debut that highlighted the duo's search for a sound that truly suited them, and on 'IN THESE §TREETS', I think they've found it. They've carved a nice little niche into the wall of modern pop, combining dreamy ethereal vocals with trip hop beats to form something dark and relaxing and downright blissed out. Sure, the singing isn't the most individual thing in the world, but paired with Sabzi, it works like no other voice could.
The EP opens with 'Wildflowers (Exhale Efreet)', and Sabzi's electronic trickery is present from the very start. He transforms Kelsey's words into beats, warping them to fit the rhythm he has so carefully laid out. There is a subtly to the music throughout this EP, and this track is no different. A bike bell contrasts with deep, affected guest vocals, and the harmonised backing flow with the soft, delicate singing. Tinkles and airy, breezy sensibilities may suggest a minimalistic ethos, but MIH have simply layered their lush sounds in a way that gives the listener space to breath. The result is something that retains all the confidence and busyness and detail, but manages to recall an ethereal elegance and fragility with perfect ease. 'Viices' follows, an eerie beauty expressed through the music box melody that weaves in and out throughout the four minutes. The uptempo experimentation through 'Amaranthine', a track almost completely void of voice, works well, but it's the next number that makes the EP for me. 'Marguerite' is the flawless amalgamation of fantastic lyricism, and vocals that sing them with equal brilliance. "It feels like the weight of the world, suspended into hemispheres" goes one line, delivered in a manner that yearns to be free of the burden it describes. The velvet softness of Bulkin's voice on 'Chatoyant' is similarly passionate, offset by the contrasting summery percussion. I know I'm focusing a lot on the singing in this review, but that really is what makes this EP. There are glimpses of an undeniable innocence, smudged by the reality of life. Underlying tension and dark brooding thoughts throb underneath a clear conscience, and Samzi's production strives to protect that alluring beauty within 'IN THESE §TREETS'.
The ultimate number 'Holla Mears' marks the return of the affected vocals, but heck, it sounds stunning with or without them. It's an apt end to an EP that succeeds in everything it sets out to do. It reanimates the imagination of a mind worn down by the stresses of everyday life. It sets a tone that warms the heart during a cold November afternoon, and it soothes. It brings a relaxation that expels dark thoughts out into the frosty air, and I love it. It doesn't aim to be the most unique thing in the world, and it really isn't, but what it does do it does magnificently. Stream 'Marguerite', then grab the EP from the Bandcamp here!