EP REVIEW: midst - self-titled

EP REVIEW: midst - self-titled

Genre: Electronic, Dream pop, Ambient

Release Date: 23 January 2016

Label: Self-Released

Having emerged overnight in late 2015, and with only three singles to their name thus far, local band midst have certainly caused a bit of a stir in the local scene – for all the right reasons, of course.

Drawing influences such as The xx and London Grammar, midst's inspired approach to pop music is arguably easily to replicate, but hard to get right – if anything, the trio has commendably channeled various styles into one they can call their own.

Weaving atmospheric electronic music together with creamy vocals and lush arrangements, the three-piece act displays a strong sense of musicality and dexterity, seamlessly combining the different elements together into a singularly engaging aural experience that is their debut EP.

Opening track 'Introvert' sets the tone for the rest of the EP, with gentle and immediate guitar licks, along with programmed beats, gradually washed over by silky waves of digital keys and atmospheric reverb. 

Seguing seamlessly into the next track 'Captivate', the resulting seven-minute epic forms the centerpiece of the EP. Vocalist Rachel Cheng’s lyrics gently invite listeners into the folds of the dense production of this track — built steadily upon her smooth vocals, hushed guitars and keys, and swirling electronic beats that drives the introspective mood. The track simmers and gradually soars before concluding with a stark combination of echoed voices in the background and emotive piano keys. 

Subsequent tracks 'ç' and 'Away' veer towards a slightly more experimental approach — sans vocals, 'ç' displays a remarkable cinematic undertone, complete with beats and melodies that bring ambient pioneer Brian Eno to mind. 'Away', on the other hand, possesses a relative immediacy resemblant to Tycho's recent work.

Closing off the EP is 'Wake up, O sleeper', a downtempo number swirling with warm and enveloping instrumentation, which begins with a soft rustle before maturely evolving with an uplifting, resplendent tide — rounding the EP off with a radiant conclusion.

With numerous tracks spanning over four minutes on average, this five-track EP is a testament to this nascent trio's ambition and strength in instrumentation. While their songs may have necessitated the length of their tracks, doing so was a gamble that could have resulted in overran or repetitive tracks. midst, however, avoids any instrumental indulgence and makes excellent use of each running time, resulting in an overall visceral experience.

While the band seems to gravitate towards generating their own soundscapes and ambient instrumentation, there is potential for improved lyricism, even as they continue to develop and refine their own sound. The lyrics, while seeming sufficiently intimate, would benefit from greater emotional warmth and depth that may well complement their full-bodied and immersive sound, making their music more than just stimulated listening. 

The EP succeeds in introducing listeners to midst’s brand of music, but it also allows the trio to find their feet and experiment with different ideas to properly define their music. For a band that did not exist until just six months ago, convening in a bedroom, the EP marks an accomplishment for them – showing that they are indeed capable of making music this captivating, all in the onset of their career.

Rating: 8.5/10

You can follow midst on Facebook and stream their self-titled EP on Bandcamp.