After the playful diversion that was R.E.T.R.O., Austria's Stefan Poiss and Markus Hadwiger return to the creative universe that gave rise to the band's first three albums – a conceptual trilogy. Only this differs considerably from those earlier releases with less of the narrative that marked out those previous forays into the Matrix-like universe of the Dreamweb. Instead, this is more like the incidental backdrop rather than the soundtrack to another entry in that body of work.
As such, anyone expecting a direct sequel to those might be disappointed with the album. There are far fewer stand-out tracks and the BPMs are generally much lower than before. Neither of these are bad things. Less immediate as a consequence, it may take a while to wrap itself around your mind, but as it does so it's easy to suddenly find yourself immersed in the characteristically unconventional production styling Poiss utilises. On Fragments Poiss sings about a club that has closed “The music is the key... Meet me in the Dreamweb”. This album, Revelations, is the music that used to play in that club. 7/10
Rob Dyer (February 2013)
"8 Bits"(Limited Single, 2010)
four years laying down his epic vision of his Dreamweb universe
across three albums, it comes as no surprise that for the fourth
Mind.In.A.Box album, R.E.T.R.O., Austrian Stefan Poiss
opted for a less exhaustingly intellectual approach, being a homage to
the Commodore 64 8-bit home computer of the 1980s.
Poiss was desperate to get his headspace in a completely different
place if not for light relief than probably to maintain sanity. So
single sampling has three variants on the title track: 8.5bits
mix, 8.6bits mix and Club Edit
plus The Last Ninja 2 (parts 1 and 3 can be found
on Retro). None of the 8 Bits
remixes are very radical departures from one another.
In contrast to the retro subject matter, all cover familiar MIAB ground in terms to general writing style and production techniques. The vocodered vocals are still prevalent but it's nice to hear Poiss' striking voice briefly soaring in its untreated form at the end of the 8.6bits mix, but I still prefer the original album cut. 6/10
Rob Dyer (June 2010)
Released in the dying days of superb German label Dependent (single What Used To Be taken from this was to be the final entry in the label's catalogue - MIND131 for you fact freaks), Crossroads is the third and seemingly last chapter in Stefan Poiss and Markus Hadwiger's thought-provoking noir SF concept trilogy.
Whoa! Now wait a second!... Waddaya mean 'concept'?! Fear not electronic music fans; in place of 70s prog-rock pomposity we have anthemic club music that balances its euphoric warbling Autotuner voices with a refreshing lyrical intelligence and depth of thought that if not entirely 'concept' in the strictest sense has a narrative strong as a Raymond Chandler novel. Mind.In.A.Box's Dreamweb trilogy shares reasonable amounts of DNA with the Matrix trilogy, and if the third entry in that series was a flabby CGI money shot dragged out over two hours, Crossroads is an independent, low budget (but polished) thinking man's SF entry.
Though lacking as clearly a delineated story arc as its predecessors, this album manages both to stand alone and deliver an end to the fascinating and shadowy journey dreamt up by our two Austrian creators. The members each take on a distinct and separate role (Markus H writes the lyrics and Stefan P all the music). The finished blend of trance patterns with more up front futurepop elements is as convincing a template for this uncommon division of compositional labour as one can imagine. (It will be interesting to see if they choose to continue in the same vein now that their opus is complete.) The accompanying booklet includes the lyrics for all the songs - perhaps more important to a full understanding of the band's intentions than many others. It also contains a short story by Andreas Gruber set in the Dreamweb universe, based around the character of Black who features in the album's narrative.
Song titles give you a good indication of the main themes of the album: Introspection, Amnesia, Indentity, Lucid Dreams, Stalkers, Into The Night and Run For Your Life. Identity stands out on the vocal front, the choral refrain utilising perhaps MIAB's most punchy voice to date and the result is impressive. I'd be interested to hear more vocal explorations into this territory. When really on form, they can also turn out successive songs well over six minutes long without running dry (three quarters of the album's thirteen tracks run over five minutes). Meanwhile, those who like Skyshaper era Covenant may momentarily hear a resemblance on The Place whose opening solo piano gently shifts into digital strings and Stefan P's cleanest voice.
Crossroads is not flawless. For my tastes there are probably too many higher BPM songs and with thirteen tracks, a bit of judicious trimming could have resulted in a greater sense of variety - something chapters 1 and 2 (Lost Alone and Dreamweb) still demonstrate. There is also excessive use of the treated vocals which are jarringly Believe Cher at times; and I'm not convinced by some of the mixing (for example a sequencer on Amnesia briefly sounds like the very odd one half only of a stereo track). But that is just the balanced critic in me doing its job. Crossroads proves that there is enough richness in both the ideas behind the Dreamweb concept as there is in its execution to comfortably fill three albums across four years. It was a bold thing to imagine, an even bolder thing to attempt, and remarkable that these guys actually pulled it off in such a credible manner. With the circle now complete, the Dreamweb trilogy of Lost Alone, Dreamweb and Crossroads, whatever its shortcomings are, will remain an impressive achievement. 7/10
Rob Dyer (December 2008)
"The second reflection in a mirror of our reality" is how Stefan Poiss (aka Mind.In.A.Box) eloquently describes his follow up to one of the finest albums of 2004 (Lost Alone) and one of Dependent's most original releases to date. It perhaps then comes as no surprise that although still very much worthy of your attention, Dreamweb had a very tough act to follow and it doesn't manage to excite or impress like its predecessor.
Consistent with Poiss' cinematic inspiration, this is a direct sequel to the first album, so much so in fact that opening track Tape Evidence is effectively a recap featuring various cues and clips of the previous outing and some peeks at what's to come. What does follow is very much in the film/game soundtrack mode of Lost Alone, perhaps more so, with Poiss fondness for unpredictable and disjointed structures very much in evidence. Song titles and (Markus Hadwiger's) lyrics continue to explore the 'Dreamweb' virtual reality world ideas that the Austrian is so fascinated with, and in these respects this is a strong as Lost Alone.
Between Worlds gets additional (game freak) credits for seemlessly incorporating the sound of 'hitting the spikes' from Jeff Minter's pumped up version of arcade classic Tempest! Dead End and Reflections appear to pick up from Lost Alone's two-part narrative on Waiting and Forever Gone. Unfortunately, musically, it is perhaps a bit too esoteric - to its detriment - and the results feel too dissipated to be either as affecting or as compelling as Poiss' debut. Nevertheless, credit where credit's due, it's enthusing to see someone still not afraid to take on the concept album. 7/10
Rob Dyer (September 2006)
Six tracks totaling almost 35 minutes, this first single from Mind.In.A.Box. represents nothing if not value for money. There are four versions of the title song: the single edit and the miab.alien.mix by the band themselves. Then there are the two guest remixes, the first by Thee Hyphen, the last by Seize. Of all of these, the band's own miab.alien.mix is the finest.
Additional tracks are Beyond The World and Unicorn (pro.version), both of which, to these ears, are easily as proficient as the title song. The first is a mid-tempo entry typical of the Mind.In.A.Box sound and style. Whereas the latter is a more straightforward dance track distinguished by a shimmering hookline. Although an obvious song choice as a single, Certainty isn't Mind.In.A.Box in their prime so this release is likely to be of interest mainly to those already converted by the 2004 debut. 6/10
Rob Dyer (September 2006)
If truth be told, German label Dependent has never really filled the void left by the departure of genre big leaguers Covenant and VNV Nation. That is, until they signed up Stefan Poiss' Mind.In.A.Box project. Having previously written music for video games, Poiss comes to the genre with a refreshingly different perspective to everyone else on the scene and the results are as infectious as they are stunning.
Without a doubt, this qualifies as 'Debut of the Year' for 2004. The fact that I have been unable to stop playing this since it came through many months ago is evidence of its addictiveness. Whatever the audio version of a 'page turner' is, this album is it. No sooner does it finish than you hit the repeat button - several times a day, several days a week… Opener Light & Dark perfectly sets the tone with its unconventional structure, gradual build, dance rhythms, future-pop tinges and game music grandeur. And it never lets up. This is the soundtrack to a shadowy netherworld that looks just like our own, but is somehow different.
Lyrically this is as strong as it is musically thanks to the work of Markus Hadwiger. One of my favourite examples of this is found in Waiting and its sequel Forever Gone. The former introduces us through a dialling telephone to what could be a Matrix-like existence, with the only voice coming from one side of a distorted phone conversation from an unknown agent trying to track a target. The story is picked up by Forever Gone where we learn that the target has successfully eluded the trace, forcing the mysterious observers to abort their mission.
Thankfully, there are as many mid-tempo or slower ballads as there are dance beats. And Poiss excels at both. On top of all this are the surprising production touches, especially on the vocal treatments, that put most of their rivals into a mundane shade. This album contains more ideas and exciting twists than half a dozen of its contemporaries. Sheer exhilaration from start to finish. This is so solidly impressive throughout that it makes you wonder just how Poiss can follow it up. One of the best releases of 2004, and if there was never anything else from Poiss, Lost Alone would stand as a worthy testament to his thrilling talent and creativity. You simply must buy this album! 8/10
Rob Dyer (January 2005)
Official Mind.In.A.Box website: http://www.mindinabox.com
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