Mogwaa – Pilgrim (Spring Theory, 2019)

Ultimate balearic vibes on one of 2019’s most uplifting and spiritual releases.

Mogwaa remains one of the kings of groovy, deepy housey 5am vibes, that radiate and shine so strong through his tunes. Having released through the likes of Star Creature, he is well known as one of a new breed of producers bringing the sunshine through their work, music that instantly brings you to a state of calm, a tropical oasis for you to radiate in and enjoy the finer things in life. Most importantly, his music sets scenes and describes the transitions between sceneries, so much that you can hold his world in his hand, via the outstretching of a hand or closing of your eyes. Relaxing, soft to the touch, angelic to the ears, what more is there to enjoy?

On this effort, ‘Pilgrim’, Mogwaa looks to his time living in Peru and Vietnam as contextual tools to help guide his musical process. The music swirls around as if it has a story to tell, as if you shut your eyes you can smell and feel and taste what he experienced, what he imagined, what he saw. Somewhere in the dense layering of sounds, a story is waiting to be told, and it says a lot that the music is able to conjure up images of these places, even if such a journey has never been taken by this writer. He describes the music as when ‘other worlds meet in an unexpected way and human open-mindness allows colors to fade out on each other to create new tones’. Thus, the bedrock is set for one stellar ep.

The opener, ‘Camino de Los Vagabundos’, sets the scene of his time in Lima, where he had just moved, so his experience was fresh and different from South Korea. Slow, drifting, and flowing, strong synth pads lead the tune into life and time, before distorted bass lines and a funky guitar line join in the evolving vibe. Music for the mind, to think and conjure up similar memories of being in a new country for the first time, taking it all in, the noises and the chaos, refreshing and exciting yet still a little bit unfamiliar. As the tune grows, so does it seem Mogwaa’s connection with his new surroundings, understanding a bit more with each beat and transition. A synth solo suggests comfort, being able to set out a bit into the unknown. All in all, it is a gorgeous song, and we can see the setting sun over Lima, over the mountains, and over Peru. Right around the middle of the song, another element comes in, a marching band sort of vibe that drives the song just a bit more forward, and gives respite from the sunniness, taking us to the street, during a carnival maybe. All this seems like a passing moment in his understanding of his surroundings, his context and the culture swirling around him. A simmering piece dripping in all things good and holy.

Track B, ‘Ocean Watch’, immediately conjures up that feel. Breezy, hazy, drink in hand, white deck chair, on a roof top terrace. Sun gleaming off terracotta tiles, white walls and all, dazzling sand and a sun drenched sea under a perfect blue sky. Horizon line just a mere blended line in the distance. The tune itself invites the listener to take a dip, a big long soaking wet dip, into a world soundtracked by dreamy pads, drippy chord lines, nice down tempo yet energising vitamin D filled beats. It has all the goods, and perhaps whilst not painting a story as much as the first track did, it does set a scene fantastically. Like a David Hockney painting, it feels so inviting, so good and warm, that you wish it was tangible. The transitions too, conjure up feelings that you are getting in and out of a pool, with the warm heat waiting for you to sit down and relax once again. Think DK, think Onra, think Soul Ipsum. Textured vibes for the high seas and pale yellow beaches.

Side B kicks in, and offers another side to the journey. A different path, so to speak. ‘Paramila’ drives in, takes a seat, and takes off down a long dusty highway. With a uptempo drum section, always moving forward, a harmonic synth layer for the gods drives the track forward. Down that dusty highway, with the sun kissing the skin, it all feels too real. Mogwaa describes this tune as representing his neighbourhood, and how it compared to his old neighbourhood in Seoul. It has that vibe of comparing the feel of two places, and how differences make up for experiences. As the track progresses, synth lines kick in further, lovely solos over the consistent vibes that started it all. Driving, diving, take a reminiscent trip with the man. Gorgeous. Finally, we have ‘Drizzle’. What feels like a car journey leaving the place he had lived, with the rain falling down the car window, it has all the goods, with a lovely synth line moving in and around all the time. A strong presence, it never grows tied of moving around, swirling, as if its taking him back on his journey, back home. But never forgetting his time in this one particular place.

Mogwaa sure delivers the goods on this one. An EP dripping in its context, providing a backbone, a story to give meaning to this delightful collection of songs. Melodic, layered, and uplifting, it tells a tale of living somewhere else, experiencing it, exploring it, and wrapping things up, with a nod to the past, the present and the future. If only all house records were this contextually informed, then there would be thousands of stories rather than just a few.

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