Daniel Martin-McCormick is a curious and interesting guy. At first it might seem too big a leap from Dischord (with the band Black Eyes) to Planet Mu, but the steps in between made the transition less traumatic. Firstly, with Mi Ami, the band with which he explored the hookiest and most nerve-wrecking areas of the post-punk revival a few years ago. Furthermore, his singles and EPs of last year, especially the ones released on 100% Silk, which served to clear the path for a flight from hypnagogic pop to more danceable territories. In this manner, little by little, Martin-McCormick, otherwise known as Ital, has been establishing himself as someone to keep an eye out for. Which is what Planet Mu did, always looking as they are for a new angle on rhythm.
It's impossible not to mention the tag “hipster house”, used to refer to the kind of dance music released on 100% Silk over the course of 2011. The term is used for certain kinds of dance music characterised by the distance one looks at it from – often because most of the makers come from totally different fields, mainly within the American underground, but also because of their self-confessed fascination with the classic house and techno sound of the eighties. The criticism enclosed in the term “hipster house” lies in the fact that that distance is seen as a lack of legitimacy, possibly stressed by the fact that the music isn't always meant exclusively for the dance floor, or because of the sometimes openly lo-fi techniques used to make the tracks. Just look at Ital, for instance: he makes his music using such basic software as Audacity. The obsession with a particular era and the consumption of anything coming from it, is as important (if not more) in hipster house as the functional aspect of the music. Also, its rudimentary approach to the production adds a layer of weirdness and experimentalism, which is where part of their interest lies.
Furthermore, it has to be said that the internet, as a virtual space, is at least as big of an influence on their music as the dance floor. In fact, on the album he's leaving clues to suggest it. For example, the title of the shortest track, “Privacy Settings”, and the sampled diatribe by American comedian Steve Harvey against the internet on “Israel” (where Harvey says that internet has become the place where Evil lives). Conceptually, Ital operates in the same vein as other investigators of virtual digital spaces, including James Ferraro and Fatima Al Qadiri, particularly when observing how those space influence our lives and, especially, the way we listen to music.
“Hive Mind” opens with “Doesn’t Matter (If You Love Him)”, a song built from a Lady Gaga sample taken from YouTube - stretched and twisted until it became another rhythmic element (like he used to do under his alias Sex Worker), while at the same time emphasising its imperfections due to the sound compression used by YouTube. There's also a brief appearance of Whitney Houston's “I Will Always Love You”, with the tone modified in such a way that it almost sounds hilarious. You could take it as a joke, but the truth is that samples so blatantly obvious shouldn't distract from the sound - a cosmic kind of house, deeply explored on the three last track of the album, also the most interesting ones. Each of these songs has a duration of over ten minutes and sets itself apart from the rest with a particular sound: the cowbell on “Israel”, the acid bubbles of “First Wave” and the contained, cosmic euphoria of “Floridian Void”. Production-wise, the last part of the album is the most distilled music Ital has released to date. His sonic manipulations (especially the tones) emphasise the growing role of dynamics in his tracks - the creation of a cosy atmosphere, contained and serene, highly immersive, emphasised by the almost omnipresent synths, which makes “Hive Mind” his best release so far.