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Record Review: Secret Mommy’s The Mall

By / Posted on 18 April 2011

The MallInitial reactions to The Mall are likely to go something like this:

  1. Hey, that’s a cute idea.
  2. Yeah, it’s a little gimmicky, I guess.
  3. Holy hell, this is catchy.
  4. Why can’t I stop rocking my head to the beat?
  5. Wait… where’d it go? It’s over?!

Let’s back up a moment.

Andy Dixon is one of the few musicians out there who truly subscribe to the title “artist.” He is a painter, graphic designer, photographer and videographer in addition to having a steady outpouring of consistently compelling music that never ceases to challenge both the artist and the audience (as so much good art is wont to do). It was only a few months ago that Dixon dropped the debut mix from his swagtacular hip-hop persona Caving, and here he is, already prepped with a new release from his most well-known and most prolific project, the found-sample reliant Secret Mommy. Like on the Wisdom EP, Dixon chose to record all the samples for this opus in one specific setting, replacing the personal pain and anxiety of dental surgery with the a leisurely outing to what MTV’s Daria referred to as “that repository of human greed and debasement”: the mall.

Those expecting raucous jams along the lines of Secret Mommy’s last effort Plays are likely to be disappointed. The eight tracks on The Mall do not have clear cut beginnings and ends nor do they have hooks or beats that keep them distinct and unique. Rather, like the average Western congregated shopping warehouse, one blends into the next and mimics the tactics of each other so that no one ever stands out. What you have instead is one finely-crafted twenty-eight minute song that speaks to our repressed senses of self-involvement and consumerism. Cash registers chime, sales associates go through their rehearsed pitches, the water fountain crashes to maintain the illusion of nature within the shrine of manmade artifacts, and the whole thing is chopped and reedited as a found art collage with a beat you can sway to.

The affair is bookended by largely unedited recordings of elevators and sales clerks that give insight to the source material, but the twenty-four minutes in between are a nonstop groove. The Mall is an absolutely impressive piece from an artist who is constantly challenging his media. Neither his most accessible work nor his most enthralling, The Mall proves to be more than just a gimmick by being both excessively enjoyable in its hooks and, most importantly, an interesting listening experience.

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Derrick Sanskrit has produced critically-acclaimed work as an artist and writer for Nerve, Babble, Pitchfork, The Onion and the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, among others. He founded The Pop Aesthetic during the coldest months of his life in 2010.