The Australian artist builds a world within five club tracks.
"The music is inspired by earth," Lewie Day says about this mini-album as Tornado Wallace, "both the planet itself as the small insignificant celestial being in the great cosmic story, and earth—the dirt itself—the womb and the tomb of life's mysteries and wild manifestations." He's referring to Midnight Mania here, but this poetic statement actually feels like it's been a guiding force in Day's music for about seven years now. The Australian artist broke through in 2010 as part of a disco and house milieu that included artists like The Revenge, 6th Borough Project, Mark E and Session Victim, but after a year or so away from releasing records, he returned in 2013 with EPs for ESP Institute and Beats In Space that seemed to signal a change. We were still in roughly the same BPM range, but the disco samples and influences had given way to something under the broad umbrella of Balearic—the range of instruments widened and the atmospheres became humid and enigmatic. Day's music felt—and continues to feel—earthy, a vibe you can also sense in titles like Lonely Planet (his first album, on Running Back), Kangaroo Ground / Ferntree Gully, Falling Sun and others besides these.
The change in direction also loosened Day's focus on the dance floor. So while we've had kicking club cuts like those on, for example, the excellent 2017 release EP For Animals Dancing, we've also had sweaty, dusty home listening experiences like Lonely Planet, an album that, if you'll pardon the cliché, was a bit of a journey through sound. Day's 2.0 style has proven well-suited to terrain outside of the club, but on Midnight Mania that's where he returns. With five tracks, a 31-minute runtime and plenty of compatibility for DJs, the mini-album seems more like an EP in truth, but if you're listening at home or on headphones, it could be said that this is sensible form for Day to deliver this kind of muggy, drum-rich house music.
Or is this house music? It's credit to the work he's done here that there'll be differences of opinion on this question. Midnight Mania has that puzzling Shackleton-like quality of evoking ritualistic music in a way that doesn't feel specific to a tradition or culture. The mind-bending video for the title track suggests that Day might actually have imagined one: "Robin Hood Jared Leto goes on a slutty DMT trip," is how a YouTube commentator reacted to the clip, created by the video artist Stacie Ant, in which Day meets... I'm actually not sure what those things are. The intense percussion and sweeping synthesizer lines of the track aren't quite as trippy as the story they soundtrack, but it's a big compliment that they're close.
Variations of the jerky, stepping rhythm of "Midnight Mania" appear throughout, as do the track's strange, cosmic characteristics. The dramatic sweep of pads, peculiar synth lines, natural soundscapes and choral voices are some of Day's go-to's. "PNG (Praise No Ghosts)" features an arpeggio of Moroder proportions. "Mundane Brain" is also a track of expressive synthesis. It's only really "Jungle Dream" that seems to exist in the world we know, a point that only stands because of the rave organ. Music industry types these days like to talk about "world-building," the idea that everything an artist does inhabits a zone of his, her or their creation. It's unlikely Day will arrive at future DJ gigs wearing a Robin Hood Jared Leto costume, but in Midnight Mania he's created a world of impressive imagination.