Album Review: Restless Mosaic’s Sophomore LP Another ‘Restless Mosaic’ of Sonic Experimentation
This guy is just really good at naming things. Starting with his artist moniker, if apt titling was the only thing needed to get people to listen to one’s music, Restless Mosaic wouldn’t even need press. It’s difficult to ignore, to the point where one has to wonder if this is actually all concept work. Like an actual visual mosaic, this artist’s work is intricate, beautiful and its full effect is really only appreciated when one steps back to see the sum of its parts. The “restless” part, however, makes that sum just a little off; the experimental side of the work makes the emotive and emotional whole feel a little, well, restless.
Similarly when YEDM discovered Restless Mosaic with his first album There’s Much Left to Explore released in February 2021, the name was so apt it was almost too apt: the unfinished nature of this multi-genre soundclash of an album was purposeful and, again, quite concept-driven.
In the Windows 95 pinball game ‘Loony Labyrinth’ – in which you travel back to ancient Greece to rescue something or other from a minotaur chamber while the moon phases are right (maybe? I never beat it) – when you lose a ball, a digitized voice says, “There’s much left to explore.” And I’ve come back to music full-bore because that’s what motivates me to create anything – knowing how many awesome things are out there, waiting to be discovered and explored.
If that’s not a good reason for a game and an excellent approach to songwriting and production, we don’t know what is. There’s Much Left to Explore indeed covered a lot of uncharted musical territory, especially in the way it mashed different genres and styles together. Dubstep, krautrock, vaporwave, muzak? Nothing was off limits to explore but the album also came off so cohesively that its reach went wider than anyone expected for an experimental album. Restless Mosaic truly has that x-factor like an Underworld or an Aphex Twin where he’s able to make high-concept, technically really difficult and, again, “restless” music also remarkably listenable. It’s no easy skill.
That first album title also carried with it the portends of more to come from Restless Mosaic, and that’s where we meet him with his new album, Made by Thawing Ice, released in March of this year. Again with the excellent titling, one has to wonder if the album title is so good it’s informing how we listen to the music. With said title obviously alluding to water, there is a flow and a sort of underwater quality to this whole album that seems to run as a common current in the sound design…we think. If the album wasn’t titled thus, would we still hear it thus? Mr. Restless is making us all restless with this sonic mindjob, and let’s not even get into that jab at perception and perspective contained in the title: it’s common to think of ice as being made by freezing water, but who ever thinks of water as being made by melting ice, aside from perhaps glaciologists. With this album, we’re launched into the Restless Mosaic before we even hit play.
As previously overstated, Made by Thawing Ice has much more flow and musical progression than its predecessor, mainly accomplished via the liberal application of vaporwave synths, drone and staticy Moog-style synth work. Starting with the wavy foghorns of “A La Cara Amarilla” featuring vocalist Lili Aqvq and running through “Sandbags on the Flood of My Insecurities,” which sounds a bit like being trapped in a flooding submarine in the loveliest possible way, to the nature drone-fueled industrial mix of “Polliwog 1 & 6 7 8,” the water vibes are definitely there and that synth work ties it all together.
Less of a clash of genres and more of an IDM redux, Made by Thawing Ice nonetheless contains a lot of surprises that operate outside of said redux. “Multicam Behavioral Health” featuring Dear Kristin, for example, takes a sharp left from the first few songs on the album back into dadaist experimentalism. Mostly jazz fusion-inspired with sort of camp funk synths driving the Broadway-style lyrics, this track is almost a palette cleanser or an intermission from the rest of the album. Just like everything else, however, it’s deliberately placed. Its closing lyric “please, let me be alone for ten minutes” leads into the exactly ten minutes long “Alone for Ten Minutes” moves from dadaist to surrealist and is an answer to the question of what happens to this and many other artists’ minds when they are, in fact, left alone for ten minutes.
From there, the album takes a decidedly jazzy bent but it’s still got that underwater feel and flow within the sound design which allows for those most experimental breaks in “Multicam Behavioral Health” and “Alone for Ten Minutes.” Made by Thawing Ice also seems to be a story told in sound about perspective, the giant satire that is the human mind and how to keep that overthinking, glitched out supercomputer inside our cranial wall online and functioning. One way, according to Restless Mosaic, it so pour all that mess out on a staff and see if we can make some sense of it. It’s still unclear if he can or not, but the result is a killer LP with more perfectly apt titles than you can shake a stick at, and, potentially, a world of organized chaos behind the bits of glass that does help heal some f the emotions around being human, even when they don’t make sense. That’s really all anyone can ask of a piece of art, and Restless Mosaic has accomplished it in his second album. Pretty decent progress in a year.