Playfulness pays off
Although just putting out their debut album, the duo CMON is hardly newcomers to the music scene. Previously two pieces of the alternative rock band Regal Degal, Josh Da Costa and Jamen Whitelock were known for their elusive, constantly evolving, take on the psychedelic rock aesthetic. Costa and Whitelock carry over to CMON the same musical palette and playful spirit. Their debut album, Confusing Mix of Nations, marries nostalgic and futuristic elements, giving rise to an excitingly unique and compelling body of work.
CMON maximizes the familiar spacey guitars and vocals, yet accents their composition with bold, ear-catching, production choices. On the album opener, “Coo,” the reverb-drenched ’80s-inspired synths lock in with the bright drums to create a hypnotic groove. While the groove is impressive in itself, the song is most interesting when the groove is interrupted by the unexpected noisy industrial blips in the breakdown section.
“Zoo” also exhibits this spirit. The atmospheric and nostalgic pop tune tastefully uses breaks in its melodic motifs to toy with a subtle intensity. The infectious track “Mindboggling” shows off their chops as producers in their tasteful blend of straight-forward pop beat and sweet vocal melodies with abrasive synths and frustrated screaming. CMON’s ability to set up catchy repeated motifs and their tendency to disrupt such repetitions, and therefore expectations, make for incredibly engaging compositions.
This repetition/disruption pattern is only the surface of CMON’s keen sense of composition. At its core, the highlights of Confusing Mix of Nations are successful because they are playful, bold, and forward-thinking. “Celluloid” exemplifies this spirit. While there are countless bands that would cling tightly onto the track’s energetic swung beat and spacey guitars for the entire duration of their album, CMON decides to not bore listeners, and that sets them apart.
Embodying techniques from the duo’s experience live-looping, the breakdown section contains distorted, choppy vocal samples that dance with the imaginative clicking percussion to make a disorienting yet catchy and futuristic refrain. In “Base,” the intentionally monotonous and robotic vocal line takes the supporting role to the driving drums and attention-grabbing synths, only claiming the spotlight towards the end when it’s embellished with bold metallic harmonies. Each melodic fragment in “Base” holds its weight on its own but also comes together to create an engaging fugue-like composition.
While Da Costa and Whitelock are no strangers to music fans, their debut effort as CMON, Confusing Mix Of Nations, comes like a breath of fresh air. The album combines nostalgic instrumentations with futuristic production choices just as well as it mixes psychedelic elements familiar to Regal Degal fans with tight, pop-oriented grooves. Confusing Mix Of Nations establishes CMON as a band to watch in the alternative pop world.