- The London artist's third album is a compelling see-saw of energies and emotions.
- "Every musician and producer wants to get to that point in the studio when they can just turn their brain off and create," Miles Mitchell, AKA Mr. Mitch, said in a recent film for Resident Advisor. Earlier in the clip, his two sons, Milo and Oscar, were shown squawking into a microphone and bashing buttons on a Maschine Jam. "The kids don't have that at all," Mitchell continued. "They don't think about who's listening to the music. They don't think about what it's going to do after it's made. They're just making it."
Mitchell articulates this Zen mindset so well because he's spent the best part of ten years trying to get there. Breaking through in 2010, he made his name producing left-of-centre grime, both for MCs like Skepta and Trim and to soundtrack parties like Boxed, which he cofounded as a space to share and hear instrumental grime. Gradually, though, he began experimenting with different tones and tempos. "I've just clocked [that] I've reached the stage where I can put out music in any genre and you guys will be open to listening to it," he tweeted just before the release of his second album, Devout, in 2017. "Do you know how long that took? I am grateful AF!"
Mitchell's latest full-length, Lazy, shows him even further along the same path. "I don't think I would've been brave enough to put all those sounds together and put them out a few years ago," he recently told Angus Finlayson.
This spread of moods and textures, from gritty acid to pillow-soft guitar, is the first thing that strikes you about Lazy. You could label some of its 11 tracks house, techno or ambient, but really they defy categorisation, mashing together bits of established genres—"What They Want" is pure techno dancehall, a hybrid Mitchell has been pushing since 2018—or slipping through the cracks altogether. Banging club cuts sit alongside songs with powerful lyrics. Singular sounds and samples emanate a DIY glow, like the whizz of a photocopier on "Did We Say Goodbye," or the soulful crooning on "Movin' Up," ripped from one of his dad's old demos. (Mitchell Sr. once played guitar in a reggae band.) The whole thing is bursting with fresh ideas.
Lazy is also, at its best, a deeply emotional record. Loss is a recurring theme, first on "Did We Say Goodbye," a soft thump of guitar that, as Andrew Ryce wrote, shouldn't be separated from its heartwarming video, which pairs Mitchell's handycam rave footage with tweets from pandemic-stricken clubbers who badly miss going out. "Proud" is about another kind of loss, possibly of Mitchell's everyday relationship with his father, who has MS. "I wish you were here to see the things I've done," sings a pitched-up Jamie Foxx, sampled from "Wish U Were Here." Mitchell's own vocal, evoking a baritone James Blake, hits even harder. "The fact that I can't speak to you is the worst of all," he warbles over icy chords. "But even in the silence I still know you're proud of me."
Strongest of all, though, is Lazy's reflection on race and racism, no doubt inspired by the events since George Floyd's murder in May 2020. In the same interview with Finlayson, Mitchell says he chose the album's title because of his sometimes laissez-faire approach to making music. But the standout title track, featuring the grime MC Manga Saint Hilaire, suggests another, more profound meaning. Hilaire takes the word "lazy," a racist trope historically used against Black people, and flips it onto the racists, non-allies and institutional forces intent on perpetuating oppression. "I see you're disgusted / That we keep adapting and adjusting / You want peace / We want justice / Your system is corrupted," he raps over a see-saw of widescreen noise. By repeatedly reducing the music to barely a whisper, Mitchell gives the lyrics centre stage, emphasising their raw power.
In fact, the see-saw is a good metaphor for Lazy as a whole. The album follows no classic arc or "journey," just a continual ebb and flow of various energies and emotions. Some may find this stop-start feel hard to connect with, but I dig both the musical range and the overwhelming sense that this hodgepodge of sounds and ideas is the truest expression of Mr. Mitch in 2021. "I've definitely learnt in the last year to just do whatever I feel like doing," he told Finlayson. Lazy sounds all the better for it.
01. Black Majik
02. Did We Say Goodbye?
03. Make Time feat. Duval Timothy
04. In The Hills
05. Lazy feat. Manga Saint Hilare
06. Proud feat. Miles
07. What They Want
08. Moving Up
09. Burn Down IDM
10. Sleep feat. Social State
11. Daydream of You