myst milano. Forges Through the Fakery on 'Beyond the Uncanny Valley'

BY Tom BeedhamPublished Aug 23, 2023

"I offer Beyond the Uncanny Valley as a working anthology of Black electronic music across generational, geographical and genre lines," Toronto rapper/producer myst milano. said about their follow up to 2021's Shapeshyfter in a press release. "I thought a lot about staples of Black art across the world that can be traced back to Africa, and that link the diaspora regardless of where our people end up and throughout all eras." Intrinsic to that reckoning is a critique of the colonization of Black cultural production, and milano. grapples with that head on with infectious energy.

Black electronic music is a subject ripe for that project, the capital E-D-M Electronic Dance Music industry rarely representing its indebtedness to the underground Black (and queer) artists that brought its sounds and technologies into use in the first place. The Black artists who invented techno in de-industrialized Detroit don't see a penny from the monochromatically dressed millions who flock to club in Berlin every year; seldom do the Black and Latinx originators of house and garage who sweat it out at Chicago's Warehouse and New York's Paradise Garage get their due in the commercial applications of their music; no, Madonna didn't invent vogue.

The simulated result is vaguely familiar, but it doesn't move or quite perfectly resemble the spirit of those wellsprings. It's an uncanny valley, but milano. forges through. Moments after busting through the gate on album opener "Thirteen" with a boastful introduction, the rapper/producer affects faux exasperation as they anticipate their own reception in a sanitized scene, rattling off mild-mannered anachronisms that reek of mayonnaise over a strutting bass line: "Goly, gosh, gee whiz" (the second half of the couplet delivers double damage, normalizing milano.'s pronouns while sneaking in a subtle dig at white appropriation of African American Vernacular English: "I wonder who they is"). In the second half of the verse, they're brushing the gawky attention off to the side and levelling with the wannabe plagiarists in the room. "This is some real shit that you can't ignore / You do this for some clout, I do it 'cause I'm bored."

A survey of Black diasporic music, Beyond the Uncanny Valley finds milano. tasked with occupying multiple modes and styles over the course of the record's swift 25 minutes; but as Shapeshyfter established, they come to that challenge with studied ease. With one foot in hardcore and the other in UK jungle, "Pressure" provides a volatile phaser-heavy breakbeat blast ready to put any punk show mosh pit to shame, but "NBHD" slows things down on a track that includes a Casey MQ feature fit for a Burial record. 

While the former reunites punk and its mosh pits with their estranged roots in Black rock music and reggae, the latter offers a sedate lens through which to examine the working-class monotony that Kiki ballroom culture offers an escape from, while brilliantly adapting the scene's vocabulary for the staging of a workplace tiff. milano.'s curled lip, tell-it-like-it-is delivery is mechanical but masterful all at once, also functioning like a summary argument for the album itself: "I'm like new bitch, who dis? I keep working, you quit / I keep serving, you dip / I'm the topping, cool whip."
(Halocline Trance)

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