Banner Image

Dionysian Industrial Complex

CPLX21 : Gilbert Lister Research – Mentufacturer chases the Green Fairy

Electronic musician Mentufacturer is currently investigator-in-residence at Gilbert Lister Research, an online micro-laboratory researching melody and music software. (

Even before this tenure, he had started exploring melodies and the chord progressions that underlie them, mainly through self-written code in the programming languages Sonic Pi, Haskell and Python. Now at Gilbert Lister this code has been condensed into “GoldenPond”, an open-source library for generating chord progressions.

This embrace of a rather traditional music theory (albeit through unorthodox means) led to sketches in what Mentufacturer began to call the “sepia” genre: modern electronic sounds coupled with a harmonic and melodic language that sounded like a throwback to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. For the covers of these sepia releases, he eagerly embraced a visual language of old photographs and Edwardian ladies at the piano, which coupled with the existing Mentufacturer bilious radioactive green and purple colour scheme, began to create a sickly fin de siècle vibe to the whole thing.

Now Mentufacturer brings the first batch of Gilbert Lister’s experimental results to Dionysian Industrial Complex, this time drawing visual inspiration from the most extreme version of that end of 19th century decadence: the green fairy herself, who here becomes a metaphor for the overindulgence in melody.

In fact this in an album unhealthily obsessed with melody. Everything else is reduced to a simple formula: a basic beat, usually with crisp TR-808 sample presets, a diatonic chord progression splattered with secondary dominants and other tasty cadences and arranged into bouncy arpeggios generated with Euclidean rhythms from the GoldenPond library.

And then Mentufacturer engineers his melodies over the top, often using bizarre and harsh synthesizers.

It might sound like “video-game music”. And if your only reference for electronic music which is tuneful and not manacled to a dance-floor genre is “video-game” then that analogy might work. But it doesn’t quite capture the feel of these short “etudes” which continually throw up echoes of older styles of music despite their modern DAW-forged sheen.

Another way of thinking about it is as a kind of “hyper-muzak”. As Mentufacturer himself puts it “The better I get at this, the closer it gets to the music they play when I’m waiting in the telephone queue for my bank”.

But this is no smooth jazz. The whole thing has a thudding artificial quality. As befits its mechanistic origins. Nothing is organic or humane. The drums, chords and tune are pounded into the listener with little interest in subtlety of production or arrangement. Nothing to distract from, or soothe, the ear being bludgeoned with sugary-sweet motifs: overwhelmed and devoured by writhing earworms. Everything is clinically artificial and horribly whistle-able.

Share: Facebook Twitter Linkedin