“I definitely feel like I have a psych record in me for sure. R&B and a psych record.” That is a quote from a Mndsgn interview from 2014, and in the Summer of 2016, he has skillfully done just that.
Mndsgn is the pseudonym for seasoned artist Ringo Ancheta. Raised in South New Jersey on a healthy diet of east coast b-boy culture and gospel music, Mndsgn started off making beats after observing his older brother doing so. After going on to joining the Klipmode collective with Knwlxdge, Suzi Analouge and Devonwho, and establish himself as a competent producer on the East Coast, he decided to officially move out to Los Angeles in 2011 to become part of the vibrant music community after only visiting to perform. As time passed, he developed his own sound by learning from the records he listened. This lead Ancheta to start incorporating his own playing and voice into his music. The release of his full length label debut, Yawn Zen, prompted Mndsgn to use samples around his own compositions as opposed to basing his music around samples, and this most recent development in his compositions has come to a head on his newest album, Body Wash.
Body Wash has a very distinct list of influences. Mndsgn’s desire to listen to music through the perspective of a artist as opposed through that of a producer has lead him to gleam bits of music theory from his heroes instead of samples. In particular, Body Wash singles out early S.O.L.A.R. records artists (Babyface, Dynasty, Leon Sylvers III, etc.), Dave Grusin compositionally, and 90s R&B in respect to feel. Mndsgn primarily utilizes layers of keyboards and drum machines or samples of drum machines to set up the album sonically.
The album starts off similarly to how Yawn Zen took off in how both albums begin with instrumentals that denies itself and the listener percussion to give itself an arrhythmic feel. Mndsdgn cleverly uses the amorphous “Overture” to lead into the heavy groove of the lead single “Cosmic Perspective.” This establishes how Mndsgn uses interludes tracks to set the tone for next song, let the feel from the previous track ride out, or to further narrative that he envisioned to follow the album. Although the narrative is rather loose and not overt, it does make sense and adds to the album. The narrative of the album is that of a homeless man who is invited by a stranger to her apartment to soak in a peculiar body wash that transports the homeless man into an alternate dimension. The narrative is enhanced by the overall hazy mood Mndsgn sets for the entirety of the album with heavy use of lush extended chords, sultry vocals, delay and steady grooves.
Although there are standout songs on the album, Body Wash is very much a unified thought. Each of the main tracks maintain similar grooves and tempos, each just as rich and ornate as the next. The instrumentation of the album remains mostly synthesized, however, stringed and wind instruments do make appearances throughout the album, and they add a bit of texture overall. Tracks like “Where Ever U R” and “Use Ya Mnd (Twentyfourseven)” provide a different energy with their slightly faster tempos, without disrupting the flow of the album. “Use Ya Mnd (Twentyfourseven)” features a piano solo from producer and musician Kiefer, who has a very distinctive voice in his solos, and it sticks out enough from the rest of the album to bring attention to itself without screwing up the feel set before it, just like on the violin solo from the beautiful closer “Guess It’s All Over”.
The cohesive nature of Body Wash can be interpreted as monotonous, or boring, to listeners who don’t want to dedicate roughly 50 minutes to methodical and introspective grooves, but it’s unity is rather admirable in contrast to the popularity of mixtapes that foster variety. Mndsgn’s voice as a producer is that of one who is constantly morphing and developing in his own and positive way, and that is something that is worth note in a world where producers are enticed to create only a certain sound for monetary gain until the next new sound comes along to wash them into obscurity.