Cassette and record collectors who have a taste for the obscure and bizarre are probably well acquainted with Californian label Black Horizons. The label has a reputation for releasing experimental music of all sorts with packaging of unparalleled quality. When I received a copy of Swedish electronic act Grand Mal x‘s Stealth Minds, I knew I had my reviewing work cut out for me. The album , while touching on elements of familiar genres, often enters territory previously unexplored here on Black Metal & Brews. While this could have made it an album worth setting aside due to an incompatible genre, I found this tape to be a compelling challenge and a worthwhile experience, one that I’m delighted to share with my readers.
As with almost any Black Horizons release, it’s impossible to discuss Stealth Minds without first addressing the artwork and packaging. This cassette comes in a typical case, yet the insert goes far beyond your typical j-card. Instead, this cassette is contained within a black booklet, complete with song titles and other information. This black insert is covered with an oddly shaped cut of translucent red paper which has black designs printed to add an extra layer to the album artwork. I took some amateur photographs, but they honestly didn’t do the packaging justice. If anything, that just makes this album even more of a discovery for the reader upon purchase. To give you a slight idea, all the red spots you see in the images above are a separate layer from the black beneath. It’s awesome, trust me.
The artwork’s natural obstruction of itself is a fair pairing for a cassette like Stealth Minds, which is clearly rooted in house music yet proves a far more versatile listen than any one basic genre could contain. I’ll admit that my knowledge of house music is pretty much limited to some of Psychic TV’s ’90s output, but this tape feels like a great place for open-minded fans of music like myself to begin. Hazy, smooth beats lay a consistent pulse that feels more appropriate for exploring one’s surroundings than for a dancefloor. Still, this isn’t a one-dimensional release. Indeed, while the A-side is a relatively pleasant, albeit fuzzy house and synthpop blend, it’s the first track on the B-side, “Fever,” where heavily textured synths lay the framework for something slightly grander. It’s a feeling akin to watching the sunrise bleed through the blinds on an early morning. You’re already awake and ready for the morning to come, but not fully involved in it. The blending of dark beats and a general sense of beauty and balance makes for an experience unlike any other I’ve encountered. Grand Mal x may be mostly foreign to my ears, but I anticipate I’ll spend a lot of time with this in the near future as my taste in electronic music continues to spread farther outward.
Copies of Grand Mal x’s Stealth Minds are available for purchase from Black Horizons. All prices include shipping to your region, and you should really consider grabbing the Jute Gyte/Venowl split, among many others while you’re there. I own a small handful of this label’s releases and can’t think of a dull moment on any of them.