WPGM Recommends: mini bear – Mind Control (EP Review)

mini bear are a Los Angeles-based band, described as the following:

“Influenced by the synth-pop and freestyle groups of the early 80’s, mini bear is synthwave for a Post-Romantic generation. Taking inspiration from the future, L.A. native Lauren Kop uses analog synth sounds and modern electronic gadgets to write layered songs with sentimental melodies. Lyrics communicate intense loneliness and a fear of the de-evolution of love and the evolution of detachment in our evolving technopop culture”.

They list their influences as Kate Bush, The Pretenders, New Order, Eurythmics, Berlin, Exposure and Shelia E. Artists they like, moreover, are Little Dragon, Robyn, Nite Jewel, Jessy Lanza, Dām Funk and SWV.

Their latest EP, Mind Control, came out on Friday, September 30.

They start the engine with “Technopoly Conversations”, opening ominous, layered with Eighties atmospheric keyboard. Then the clap of the drum kicks in, addictive. The vocals are despairing, yet spunky. Things calm down a bit to let the vocals breathe, a tad more tuneful this time.

It’s a driving, bassy number, foreboding yet a tad triumphant. A middle section winds things down and, also at the same time, cranks up the drama. Guitar comes in for the closing moments, reminiscent of the melancholy leads of The Cure. A cacophony of organ-sounding keyboard rings out for the song’s end.

“Clique” is frenetic rhythm and, later, moody ambience. The vocals pack a heavier punch in this one than the last. Bolder and more authoritative. A middle section strives for triumph, before doubling in on itself for added intensity. Organic drums clap a relentless beat, aided by more synthetic sounding drum machine.

Then “It Means Nothing” tinkles sleepily. Again, that hypnotic beat strives, locking you in without the need to beat itself into complicated tangents. Busy bass slides up and down into the future, and out, again, into the past. Again, religiously timed, crops a middle section, consisting of simple lead playing, a tragic riff of determination, a futuristic Hank Marvin, of The Shadows, moment. What sounds like the processing of massive mainframe computers sees the track’s end.

“Mirror” thumps addictive and infectious. The vocals implore you to listen. If you don’t, all is lost. The unexpected swing in tempo catches you off guard, no longer locking you in relentlessly. Its lyrics, “mirror, mirror/talk to me”, are weird. Whether they evoke a Disney film or a schizophrenic nature, it’s unclear.

Mid tempo “Give It Up” is moody, electronic bass driving the song with lead keyboard melodies adding a certain sophistication to it all. A brief respite, the pounding clap of drum machine, sees the song breathe momentarily. Then comes in bass drum, hitting right into your head. Extra moody. This one seems to evoke life being a marathon, and not a sprint.

The journey comes to an end with “Prophecy Girl”, sounding more poppy in its composition than the previous tracks, at least in its opening moments. Then it has punky, driving moments. Despairing and despondent. Ironic, because, like punk songs, the track is short. Shortest on the album, in fact. The closing moments radiate and glow. Is this mini bear breaking free of mind control? A happy ending?

Regardless of this, the EP has high points elsewhere other than the perceived happy ending. Noticing the difference in vocals styles between the first two tracks, “Technopoly Conversations” and “Clique”, can be quite satisfying. Although not necessarily whispered in the first, they’re certainly bolder in the latter. This shows some degree of vocal diversity, one ideal in giving listeners a general picture of what they’re all about. Just one style, and they’d maybe be considered two dimensional.

Moving on, given the fact they take “inspiration from the future”, it’s perhaps fitting that track three, “It Means Nothing”, evokes some sort of time travel, with that futuristic space bass. Also, it segues somewhat cleverly with subsequent track, “Mirror”.

This is because, like most of the tracks before it, the drums locks you in. You really get a feel for the beat and its head nodding qualities. This suckers you into a false sense of security with “Mirror”, which you assume will do much of the same. However, the almost progressive switch in tempo means that lockdown, perhaps the comfort in that, is more like running, trying to keep pace with it all.

This is rather fitting in a way, as “Give It Up”, and its mid tempo plod, seems to urge you to know that the only way to keep up is to go at a snail or tortoise’s pace, marathon not a sprint. No point in running yourself into the ground, and burning yourself out.

The EP closer, “Prophecy Girl”, as said, is the shortest track on the album, and evokes a very punky feel. This is apt, as most punk tracks, traditionally, never go beyond the three minute mark. The fact it’s despairing and despondent adds to that genre vibe.

Also, to answer the question posed earlier, it looks, indeed, with its musicality, to evoke a happy ending. That despairing and despondent feeling, and how it changes to shimmering, positive beauty. All in all, the sun comes up upon a world living, it seems, in perpetual darkness.

mini bear, with this EP, have really strived for their signature sound. This unique identity, however, doesn’t get too contrived that it becomes predictable. They can turn things on a sixpence, but just choose to deploy it every now and then. It’s a secret weapon used now and then. Mini Bear’s Mind Control EP can be heard on iTunes here.

Also visit their Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and website pages.

Words by Andrew Watson

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