Taiwanese psychedelic duo Mong Tong translate their Chinese name as ‘the east-side of dreams’. Like a half-remembered dream from the night before, Mystery is a brief and hazy record, steeped in a nostalgia fused by disparate influences, from traditional instrumentation to electronica.
The band live up to their psychedelic moniker with repetitive and sparse bass loops, repeated under woozy percussion high on reverb on Ancient Mars. But Mystery’s charm comes from how welcome these tracks would be on 16-bit videogames and film noir soundtracks. Synth melodies, like the central theme on Jou-Tau, owe as much to the Sega Mega Drive as East-Asian tradition. The waltzing bass on Chakra which dances around an unfamiliar vocal sample and instrumental refrain can’t help but sound of another time, distinctly cool, retro.
Those hypnotic rhythms underpin the record’s moods. Similar in sound, but entirely different in delivery, 717 is a neon-lit walk through dark streets, evocative of Blade Runner and Vangelis’s signature score. With an admitted fascination for the occult, tracks like In the K. Court take on more sinister shapes, its constant march morphing into a hypnotic sway as it intensifies, becoming something more spiritual and transcendental.
Just as the record takes hold with its nightscapes and otherworldly musings, it’s done, and its brevity is to its credit. Despite psychedelia’s reliance on familiarity, none of these eight tracks get old in a hurry. Sequenced in such a way that changes between tracks are incremental and nuanced, it ends far from where it began, and yet to play it on a loop would make perfect sense, beginning Mystery’s journey over again, to further understand its textures and where it wants to lead you. Even newcomers to the genre will find lots to like here.
Mystery is out now, via Guruguru Brain