The role of dance music changed during 15 months of shuttered clubs, but the music itself didn’t. DJs took to platforms such as Instagram and Twitch to keep at-home bodies moving and artists such as Roisín Murphy had their own social media dance parties from home, and a handful simply (embarrassingly) ignored social distancing guidelines altogether. But whether anyone had the luxury of dancing on a crowded floor to a heavy, thumping bassline, the desire to do so never really went away, nor did the material most of us might long to hear in that environment, from disco anthems to minimalist bangers to something more abstract altogether.
Sound of Mind, the debut album by Egyptian producer Raxon, was created with both the dancefloor and the domicile in mind. Though there’s arguably always a different end goal when it comes to albums vs. singles in the electronic dance realm, the now Barcelona-based techno producer intertwines those ideas and potential venues in a set of immersive, hypnotic tracks that’s as eclectic as it is seamlessly constructed. In just the first two tracks, Raxon succinctly illustrates the duality of his Kompakt debut; downtempo slow-burner “Majestic” throbs with a kind of ominous sensuality, whereas “Flyby” bounces and throbs with a playfully wonky sensibility, its bubbly bass a more social yet decidedly daylight-friendly confection.
The deeper into Sound of Mind one gets, the heavier and more intense the production becomes. Just after Raxon acclimates the listener to the ping-ponging moods of the opening pair, he volleys back toward a more urgent industrial techno sound on the abrasively minimal “Phantom Report,” followed by the misty late-night mystique of sci-fi oozer “Droid Solo.” By the time he ramps up the tempo and kicks up the breakbeats for first single “Vice,” Raxon has effectively unlatched the velvet ropes and opened up the doors into a proper underground dance party.
The mood throughout Sound of Mind is one of a balance between immediacy and a kind of darkly seductive ambiance, comfortably situated alongside the minimalism and hypnotic pulses of labelmates like Gas or recent efforts by The Field. But Raxon is often just as likely to shake up the tempo and interrupt the sequence to allow moments of robotic electro like “Outworld” to follow a scuzzed-up Detroit techno homage like “El Multiverse.” Sound of Mind doesn’t flow like a DJ set, nor is it intended to. That doesn’t mean you can’t dance to it—you can, quite easily. But there are potentially greater rewards to be found through headphones or home audio, its physicality outdone only by its intoxicating atmosphere.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.