Three surrealist faces, color-blocked in flesh, sun and earth tones, peer out from the sides of the space they are confined to. Lazily looking upwards, their eyes are transfixed on a minute weeping heart. The tearful heart, Bleak Mystique’s logo, has come to be synonymous with the name and feel of the band. Taking center stage on their latest EP’s cover, with the band name in elegant font levitating above it, it’s obvious that Bleak Mystique is back with another handful of songs to pique the interest of any listener.
The only mystique being left then, are the caricatures on the screen. What are they thinking as they’re looking contemplatively toward the logo? Are they searching for sounds to stimulate their minds or storytelling that will satisfy their appetite for vulnerable emotions? The answer lies within the six tracks, which they invite you to listen to and find out.
Bleak Mystique’s self-titled EP, released on September 30, is an exploration through the power of storytelling and honesty within songwriting, as well as the musical capabilities of the band. Each track offers its own personality with guitar riffs that speak to the mood of the lyrics and bass lines that bring a heartbeat to each of them. Even with a clear distinction from one song to the next, the EP delivers cohesiveness with a trail of sonic devices littered throughout.
The EP showcases a variety of tones, allowing the listener to step into the song and experience the senses of it much like stepping into different rooms. The opening track “Something I Can’t Do” emits a dampness, drenched in the pain of loss and regret by way of its heavy rhythm section and jagged guitar riffs. The fragility of the guitar and vocals in the chorus brings a breath of fresh air to the lungs of the song, juxtaposing the overarching darkness and exposing the vulnerability that’s at the heart of it.
With one last cry of the opening track’s main riff, the song comes to its end before it has a chance to explode into full chaos and self-loathing. Immediately you’re pushed into the next track, a much brighter setting with a cool breeze wafting in, a nostalgic scent carried with it. “Treading Water,” the only released single off of the EP, greatly juxtaposes the first track with its twangy guitars and jangly piano. But like the first track and the others that follow, the drums continue to give the song vitality as the bass provides a sense of depth and intrigue in its creativity.
“Treading Water” delivers ease in its roomy, flowing vocals as it unfolds a narrative of lost love, while also bringing excitement to the climax with shrill vocal screams. The song’s playfulness in the hooting background vocals and country influences are different from anything the band has released, showcasing their ability to step into different genres and make them their own.
Bursting into a cacophonic explosion of sounds, the interlude breaks up the album with an instrumental scream that prepares it for the last two tracks. Following the interlude, “Tantrum” restores structure to the project, while maintaining the album’s ability to tactfully contrast musical ideas. The constant bass line and laid-back vocals in the verses are turned on their head with the grungier feel of the chorus. The final song on the EP, “Spray Paint Your Heart,” brings synth into the mix with a funky groove that emotes the sensation of being underwater, watching bubbles float to the surface and sunlight glisten through.
The song calls attention with its simple verses and builds anticipation by holding off on the chorus. It’s worth the wait when the smooth guitar melody, satisfying descending bass scale and enticing vocal inflections arrive for the chorus.
Thematically, Bleak Mystique wrote an EP that walks a discrete line between the harrowing emotions of anxiety and self-consciousness that come from heartbreak and a disdain for the pressures of the working world as a struggling artist. Two very different ideas, yet they draw on the desires and vulnerabilities of listeners in a way that is relatable to any palette that chooses to give it a taste.
With a climactic end to the album, and a pause before the final note is played in unison, the listener is led to believe that the EP is at its conclusion. A crooning bassoon, rising organ and delicate dance on guitar strings bring the EP to its true closing. The minute-and-a-half-long instrumental outro places you in a lulling dreamscape evoking the feeling that the EP’s musical virtuosity and crafted storytelling were but a dream, yet a dream that will play over and over again in your head.
All photos courtesy of Peter Vo via Bleak Mystique