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Mala’s exploration of Peru through music: ‘Mirrors’ album review

04 Aug 2016

Mala seems to be a man of many talents. He runs the famous London label Deep Medi Musik, signed with impressive artists such as Commodo, Coki, Loefah and Kahn. Not only this, but he has created some noteworthy solo music over the past eight years, whilst simultaneously finding the time to team up with good friend Coki to form Digital Mystikz. To top it all off, he also co-runs label and dubstep night DMZ with the likes of Loefah, Sgt Pokes and Silkie. Undoubtedly, Mala is hugely passionate about the south London dubstep scene, whilst dipping into other genres like reggae, dub, and he even takes influence from Latin American music.

Digital Mystikz have gone from strength to strength over recent years. They’ve played a variety of festivals, including Outlook, Dekmantel and Jamie XX’s new festival that made it’s debut in London this June – Sunfall.

Admittedly, although I have never been to a DMZ night, the event which has been running since 2005, has allegedly revitalised the dubstep and bass scene. Started at a 200 capacity at Plastic People, DMZ has moved onto much larger venues such as Electric Brixton and the West Indian Centre in Leeds. However, what particularly drew me to Mala over the last month, is his June album ‘Mirrors’.

Following his 2012 debut Mala in Cuba, the south London producer releases an eclectic album, taking influence from Peru. Mirrors isn’t the most instantly catchy album. However, after patiently giving it a couple of listens, dance floor elements mixed with folk sounds, fronted with Afro-Peruvian beats, make the album a truly irresistible release for this summer.

Mirrors opens with ‘Kotos’ featuring Asociacion Juvenil Puno – a Peruvian pan pipe group. The gentle sounds of the pan pipes create a euphoric echo throughout the song which makes it the perfect introduction to Mala’s new album. The percussion compliments the track by providing hints of Western instruments, which also sets the tone for the rest of the album.

In contrast to the above, ‘They’re Coming’ features a heavier, more sinister sound. Here Mala’s background in dubstep and bass music becomes more apparent. However, the biggest surprise from this album comes in the form of ‘Cunumicita’. The track has a classical, traditional Peruvian feel to it – mixing the genres up. Placed boldly in the middle of the track list, it reminds the listeners of this album’s roots and the influences behind it. ‘The Calling’ offers a simplistic element to the album, proving that minimalist production can often be most appealing.

Compared to his 2012 release Mala in Cuba, Mirrors outshines the former. At the time of its release, Mala in Cuba received a bigger buzz, perhaps because it’s rare for a dubstep producer to produce an LP using South American influences. Undoubtedly, there were several great tracks – ‘Curfew’ being one of them but overall, Mala in Cuba was slightly disjointed, with bass line being too prominent at times – ‘The Tunnel’ being an example of this. As a whole, Mirrors delves deeper into the international techniques and instruments stemming from the South American countries.

The five-year gap between Mala’s two albums is evidence of his journey of discovery about Peruvian culture, one that is reflected strongly in Mirrors and which gives it its unique sound.

Mala gives an insight into the making of Mirrors below.

Mala is currently on the festival circuit, which next stops include Soundwave, Dimensions and Outlook.