If you don’t mind a little gloom in your jazz, have I got an album for you. A Greek producer who calls himself Sickmind193 released a 6-track EP on Dusted Wax several months ago called The Story Begins. It’s downtempo, introspective, and melancholy. The formula seems straight-forward enough with its solid beats and strong bass, brass and stringed instruments, electronic effects, and desperate, wailing samples. Yet what the artist does with it is nothing short of moving.
The EP progresses through what very well may be a series of difficult emotions. Maybe fear and anxiety, maybe doubt. Maybe even a hint of despair. But the artist doesn’t bury us with negativity. We come out on the other side feeling encouraged, if a little war-torn.
The Story Begins with the eponymous track and features all the aforementioned elements. The beat kicks us off, and the bass digs deeper and deeper with each pulse. Slight electronic blips carry us between beats and a forlorn trumpet bears its soul with every sustained note.
“Time To Go Home” adds energy. The beat is reinforced, and the soundscape is filled to the brim with bass, electronics, and samples. It’s time to move on.
“In The Streets” sounds like a long walk home through a dingy cityscape. In every alley there are dark figures staring out with hollow eyes, but we press on toward home. “You know I can’t stand it,” is the line that stands out most from the sample. Sometimes it’s hard to deal, but you have to keep moving. So, you do. Higher-pitched violins and lower-pitched cellos convey the breadth and depth of such emotions in a way only stringed instruments can.
“Blood On The Lips” signals the transition to the positive. A xylophone progresses from low to high while a trumpet and chimes offer their perspective on the situation. Sure, things have been tough. Maybe we got a little bloody, but we’re strong. The soaring trumpet in the middle of the track says as much.
“Stay Focused” takes a sample from A Clockwork Orange wherein the main character talks about having a nasty dream where doctors are tinkering with his brain. If you’ve never seen it, it’s a tough film but a good one. SPOILER ALERT: The “protagonist” (more of an anti-hero really) goes from committing violent rampages to being institutionalized and experimented upon to the point where it’s hard to tell if he’s even the same person anymore.
The idea of the track, I gather, is that we must keep ourselves together, no matter the circumstances, no matter the difficulty. A haunting yet bizarrely soothing sample echoes throughout the track while a trumpet honks here and there. The bass thumps, the beat kicks. We keep going until we fade out.
The EP ends with a track titled “Never Give Up”. While the title might give away the sentiment of the track, it’s no replacement for the instrumentation. A bevy of strings carries us through the majority of the track accompanied by the beat and a simple, yet strong bass line that starts low, peaks, and comes back down, like a chain of musical mountains. The trumpets return with every bit of feeling they’ve shown throughout the album. “Never Give Up” overflows with emotion and sincerity.
I feel like the artist chose the EP’s title with great precision. While things might seem cold and dark, the overall tone is one of progress. We shouldn’t allow ourselves to get stuck with our gloom. We ought to move through it, learn from it. And if we persevere, we’ll come out of it stronger than we ever were before.
Sickmind193 – “The Story Begins”