Junk Culture - Wild Quiet
Deepak Mantena is Junk Culture. Born from an Indian family in Idaho in the mid-eighties, raised between Texas and the former, and put out to pasture at the University of Michigan; he grew up on the move. After completing a degree in Computer Science and scores of musical ventures, Junk Culture was born. Now, after endless hours of sampling, crafting and grafting we can hear his fourth release through label Illegal Art, Wild Quiet.
Fuzzy guitars, accelerated drums and synthesisers smash through the doorframe like a horse after a warning shot; leading single 'Oregon' commences. Wild Quiet begins with a truly engaging Alt-pop anthem that is as infectious as it is scrutinised and layered. "I know I can’t be free," – the dialogue in the song-writing immediately speaks volumes, and the picture painted with angst-defined instrumentation hangs true.
One perfectly fine reaction to Wild Quiet would cite that, for a man who has spliced and shook pop-song legislation in his career thus far, he hasn’t really tried to grasp anything more riveting; the foundations and structures of the record are almost parochial in the music world. But how far does Mantena have to go? Sure he's simplified, but what light do you hold a pop record against? If you listen to Junk Culture and see his contemporaries as MGMT, Tame Impala and Yeasayer, then this is an imaginative enough plight - however, hold 'Oregon' up against Deerhunter's 'Nothing Ever Happened' and it looks like an ITV version of something you'd actually see in a cinema.
There are songs on this record that are wonderfully rounded. 'Indian Summer' speaks volumes for the wilfully weird and grandiose changes in instrumentation between sections and they’re truly welcomed. Even tracks like 'Young Blood' and 'Dwell' depict a similar dynamic form of song, with interesting drapes of melodies creating lovely textures. Unfortunately, so many ditties make the more 'explorative' parts of the record feel a little contrived. Even when all Mantena has done is sample 1:43 seconds worth of street sounds and warbling piano, it just confuses what his new album is.
The production of the record is beautiful throughout, but for the moment where all its strengths align, listen to 'Growing Pains'.
Much of the dialogue within the album asks serious questions about belonging; Mantena has created an environment in which he "Can't be free." Between looking within himself on title track 'Wild Quiet' and the world around him, like 'Washington', his obsession with "the thought of freedom" is as inspiring as it is uncomfortable. Without doubt, Deepak Mantena is a diamond in the rough in terms of lyricism in modern, music and, whilst development is still needed, they’re the strongest aspect of Wild Quiet.
For a record that barely exceeds the half-an-hour mark, it manages to create enough of an impression. It's a charming collection of songs that are mainly drenched in bittersweet sentiment. Of course, the divots in which your psyche return to in Wild Quiet's less interesting moments are too close together, but an engaging prose throughout shows both Mantena's love and potential – here's to hoping his next venture will have a little more.