Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Six years following the release of their debut self-titled record, Mwahaha have at long last put out Lovers, a gentle and more reflective record than their previous release.
Lovers is a deceptively alluring record. On the surface, it sounds completely hollow, a bit like it’s missing a few components. Upon further listens, however, it’s clear that this amount of spacing is totally intentional and well-considered. The opening track “Deepened” exemplifies this, starting out with little more than a single note bass pattern under soft vocals, and a lot of space in between.
The vocal performance goes a long way in estab- lishing the tone of this spacing. Most of the tracks feature a pure, spacey delivery that adds a little bit of post-punk attitude to the angular instrumentals, like on “Sundown.” Conversely, “Watch it Fall” and “Autumn” contain shimmering, open harmonies that give the track a broader range while still reinforcing that same spaciness.
The instrumentals serve to exemplify these efforts for the most part, with a couple exceptions. They’re mostly pretty sparse, with a lot of retro-analog synth textures, like on “In a Way Not Seen,” serving to establish ambient layers over defined musicality. “Everything Hope Won’t Help” also features a gnarly Eric Clapton-style guitar solo that utilizes the space provided by the vocal-synth dynamic used in the whole record. However, the album begins to lose momentum by the back half. “Blow My Mind” is a sort of bizarre post-techno groove that feels a little too dense, and “Annika” is the opposite: a little too formless.
Still, the record is worth a listen or two, and certainly a welcome return from an engaging and thought-provoking group.