Get lost in Phuture Noize’s vision of a dystopian world of music and reflect upon your own. This is the world of Black Mirror Society.
Hello, citizens of the world, I am here as an ambassador of the future. A future enlightened by music. I am from the world of the Black Mirror Society. In my travels through this wondrous world of music, culture, and philosophy, I have learned a lot and here I am to share this knowledge with you. Join me on our path to ascension and become enlightened with me through music. This is my take on Phuture Noize‘s album Black Mirror Society; stylized as bıack|mırror socıety and referred to as simply BMS going forward.
In a previous review of mine, I spoke at length about Phuture Noize’s sound. Overall, nothing noteworthy changed about his sound over the last year, it just completely naturally evolved like every style does. Fresh new sounds incorporated into the same core network of sounds we already knew Phuture Noize’s sound for.
It’s ever so slightly less Lo-Fi than it used to be, but that’s hardly a negative. The unique feeling and vibe are still there while also being a touch easier on the ears. Despite this, it’s still an acquired taste and it takes time to get used to. Listen to Black Mirror Society below and read on for my take on this release from Phuture Noize.
Listen to Phuture Noize – Black Mirror Society on Spotify:
Containing ten solo tracks, an intro, and an interlude, the entire album (in their radio cut form) clocks in at 34 minutes long.
Phuture Noize seems to like this format/length and hasn’t changed it from Pursuit of Thunder. Much like Pursuit of Thunder, there are zero collaborations on the album, and this time, not even a vocal feature is present. This album is 100% Phuture Noize in his purest form with the vocals being either provided by a professional studio or sampled from somewhere else.
Full versions of the tracks are unavailable anywhere and Phuture Noize’s albums are for listening first and foremost and not for DJs to play with. Although as with Pursuit of Thunder, I expect a DJ pack to drop within a month from now to digital portals. There is no full continuous mix either, a shame, in my opinion, but the way each track flows into each other is reminiscent of Pursuit of Thunder, it’s almost seamless.
Currently, the album’s digital download is restricted to iTunes, with the physical disk available on bol.com, Amazon EU(the US site doesn’t have it), hardstyle.com, hardsupply.com and Q-dance’s official store. The CD runs for anything from €11.99 up to €16 + shipping depending on the portal you order it from. The digital copy is currently €8.99 on iTunes, which is a pretty good price point for 12 tracks.
In summary, the CD for collectors is absolutely worth it, digital is worth it for more casual fans but the lack of a continuous mix and the extended cuts drags it back a little.
Despite it being borderline minimalistic in its simplicity, the cover art of BMS carries more meaning than 90% of its contemporary hardstyle album covers.
Boy oh boy, this is gonna be difficult, because I literally have no clue how to tackle this one properly. There are so many things to read into it or extract as ‘hidden messages’ relating to the album. It’s on the same level of detail as say The Return of Headhunterz, Antidote, Audiology, Audioception, Wietse, Alchemy, or Producers Mind, despite having much simpler elements to work with. Can you tell how infatuated I am with this artwork?
So, let’s try to break it down, and work ourselves from the edges to the center.
The background of it all is black, obviously, but it looks like it is a well-worn, scratched-up surface of a paper-cover album. It feels organic and tangible despite it being a digital cover. I’m convinced that the digital cover is really actually just a scan of the first copy of the CD and they did a number on it to rough it up. The imperfections like the white line on the right or the little clusters of pores on the paper that accumulated dust on the left side all support this. It’s really basically the same thing they did to Pursuit of Thunder’s Digital cover too.
Then moving forward, there is no label logo or name, no artist logo or name either, only the stylized title ‘bıack|mırror socıety’ is to be read atop the cover picture. That is on the digital version. The CD’s cover has ‘Phuture Noize’ at the bottom, but that’s it. No label logo, no artist logo. Just the name and title.
The figurative mirror in the title is synced with the black bar running through the picture, the actual ‘black mirror’.
And finally, the picture itself. The picture is a processed photograph of a couple of waves. Very interesting, right?
Well… what might seem mundane at first eludes to more meaning than one might first think. It symbolizes something the narrator in the intro track talks about, it is the ‘ocean of greed’ through which the black mirror runs. Also, you might notice that the strikethrough is completely asymmetrical, it is way off-center. This is reflected upon in the title-track, but more about that part later.
The main two things worthy of mention are the color palette and the rotation of the picture. Most people rotate a picture by 90 or 180 degrees. Those are very common ways to do rotations, also to symbolize things being wrong or fucked up. Things on their heads in an unnatural position force you to suspend your disbelief and immerse yourself into a different world, serving the purpose of narration and storytelling.
BMS is different though, as the rotation is not a typically accepted or easily comprehensible degree.
It lies somewhere between 150 and 160 degrees. It is hard to determine exactly at what degree because of the way the picture has been cut to size and colorized. You really can’t wrap your head around it. The way it is rotated is a mindfuck on its own and this isn’t even getting into the music.
Like… This is art. There is no way around it. Completely mundane waves turned and touched up with a color filter and yet they still evoke emotions and feelings in me that I can’t comprehend. It is like trying to explain to a blind person why the rainbow is beautiful. It’s impossible.
The way the colors work on this is also worthy of mentioning.
Notice the black bar there right? That’s division line number 1. Division line number 2 is the ‘line’ between the two main waves, painted red and blue respectively. The way they counteract each other is beautiful. The lower and left side is covered in shades of red, while the upper and right side is covered in shades of blue with a slice of purple on the upper right. I don’t know if this part is completely intentional, but knowing Marco and his perfectionism, it might be.
Let’s dig into the sounds on Black Mirror Society starting with “Loggin In”.
This 19-second clip of a female voice on a tape recorder introduces us to the album. It’s not a track at all, it’s just laying the rough groundwork for the themes of the album, which are in each line.
The first line is a reference to Pursuit of Thunder, it also implies that the pursuit was successful. The ocean of greed in the second line is a metaphor for our modern society, and also the centerpiece of the cover art. The third line talks about a person finally seeing the world for what it is, and the following two lines build on that by exclaiming the two goals of the narrator. Getting away, escaping and killing the fake.
The fake in this case being fake gods, fake ideals and beliefs. A society built upon avarice and egoism. A society rotten to the core, while being shiny and polished from the outside. The modern American Dream. So yeah, pretty deep stuff if you ask me.
“Black Mirror Society” is Phuture Noize’s newest flagship track.
Last year it was “Fire”, “The Aftershock”, and “There’s A Lot Going On”, the year before it was “Existence Through Sound”, “The Paradox”, and “Shallow Waters”. As such, being the newest addition to a line of masterpieces, “Black Mirror Society” has a lot of expectations to live up to and boy does it pass those expectations with flying colors.
The entire track is a dose of epic atmosphere, uplifting and emotional melodies, phuturistic sound design, amazing vocals and vocal chops, percussion that would make Radical Redemption proud. And to close it off, kicks, which while a bit on the softer side of raw, have still an immense amount of power behind them because they never lost their raw edge. Unlike a certain duo of artists that have done exactly that. So, let’s get into the details and go from start to finish, overanalyzing this track.
Static that sounds like someone breathing into a microphone underwater
The track’s ominous start is instantly gripping. It quickly goes into a small melody that almost sounds like someone plucking on strings and creating the lead synth that way. Then a thunder introduces rain and the rest of the sound elements. Also, the vocals come in.
black mirror society.
been crying for worth to set me free.
now let’s save the world.
These vocals instantly establish the narrative of the entire album.
A person disillusioned with society and its norms, a person who wanted ‘worth’ to set them free, who looked for answers in the wrong places. They are asking you, the listener to join them on their mission to save the world. Saving the world in the sense that they want to free the people from their materialistic and overly worth-centric world that they chase and cherish, but it more often than not also brings their demise.
Now many people see this type of world as fair because of Social Darwinism, but it really is not, at least not for the majority of the people. The track captures this in its essence through its melody and its vocals perfectly. There just aren’t many tracks where vocals and melody fit so perfectly together and embody the same themes so well. Props to Phuture Noize for this one.
Speaking of the melody, it is uplifting, hopeful, epic but also has an alarming and dark edge. It is the light at the end of the tunnel but if it was a melody instead. The climax continues this melody with the added bonus of kicks that are just the right amount of harshness and heaviness combined, not too soft, not too hard. Then we enter the break.
a mirror with no symmetry.
black mirror society.
the worthless, nobody would set me free.
now let’s save the world.
“A mirror with no symmetry,” if there was ever a more fitting metaphor for the way ‘justice’ in modern society works, I wanna hear it.
Phuture Noize is not only a genius musician but also a poet. He just knows what to say with words, and how to convey the rest of the message through his music. If this wasn’t enough, we get the second part of the melody, which is a heavily altered version of the melody in the first climax and it’s amazing.
I love the way Phuture Noize is exhausting literally every conceivable option with his melodies. He really creates them with the intent to use them to their utmost potential. He is not content with a simple shift in key and be done with it. This track right here is well within my top five tracks of this year, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it were to be voted to be the number one track of 2018 by the end of the year. It’s a masterpiece of a track that sits comfortably on the second place of my favorites in this album.
The main message of “World of Distortion” is “The world is not as it should be, it’s filled with distortion.”
A very ironic statement considering in what kind of track this is featured in, but an interesting point nonetheless. It is basically the worldview of a perfectionist. Anything less or different than their vision of perfection is distorted and worthless.
Distortion, which is a deviation from the norm, is what adds character to many things. The kicks in hardstyle, the leads, the vocals, the effects and the percussion in music. It all comes down to being different. It is not an inherently bad thing, but in the minds of some, distortion is unneeded, unnecessary. It impedes on their ideals, standards, and visions of beauty or perfection. And in a way, Phuture Noize is the same, but his idea of perfection itself is distortion.
His perfection is something with imperfections. That is expressed masterfully in this track. It has a very clean melody, which gets ‘corrupted’ by distortion as the track goes on. Again, it is explored to its fullest potential and we get a two-part melody in one track. It almost feels like a separate track connected through the subtlest of links. It’s a fantastic track with a very high energy and a beautiful melody.
“Run Away” might be the most unique track on the record because it has fairly unusual vibes, at least by Phuture Noize standards.
The vocals singing about not being able to run away from one’s self in this Jamaican accent with the added chords used give off this jungle/reggae vibe which is very refreshing. The mid intro uses a bassy kick with a very soft punch but a massive tail following it. It’s a trendy kick lately, many people use it, most prominently D-Sturb, Warface, RVAGE and Sub Zero Project occasionally.
This isn’t Phuture Noize’s first rodeo with this kind of kick either, his remix of B-Freqz’ “Fatality” used a similar kick this year, as well as “Drift Away” and “Circles And Squares”. The sound that plays over the kicks almost sounds like very fast and rhythmical barking of a dog, which is also common in tracks with jungle elements in it.
Entering the break, we get a breather, the track slows down to a steady 4/4 pace with the vocals playing and the melody entering the scene. It’s a beautiful melody and I would really love to hear it in a climax someday, but for now I must make do with the absolutely annihilating anticlimax that follows the break. This anti alone makes it my third favorite track on the entire album, right after Black Mirror Society. It shares this spot with another track, but more on that later.
“Drift Away” lures us in using soft jingles and vocals with a soothing voice, unsuspecting of the emotional turmoil that is about to unfold in front of us.
The lyrics, if you pay attention to them at all, allude to something dark, emotional and quite heartbreaking actually. It tells the story of estranged lovers, who let the flame of their relationship run out by neglecting it. The melody of the track and its hectic buildups perfectly encapsulate this. But there is one element, one aspect, one design choice I love especially about this track. The mid-intro.
Before it even starts, the melodic buildup and the atmosphere lead you to believe that a climax will come, however the mid-intro simply intrudes upon this and takes control. It’s screaming, it’s hectic, it’s hard and unrelenting. It knocks the wind outta you and leaves you wanting for more.
But as quickly as it came, it ends just as abruptly. Signalized by the stuttering and then basically ‘breaking’ of the beat at the end, cutting the distraction out, to let people revel in the atmosphere again. Getting back to the vocals and the melody we are treated to one hell of a buildup into an amazing climax. This track shares the third place in my favorites with “Run Away”. There is a reason why I listened to this track’s rip from Qlimax for multiple hours a day for two weeks in a row without ever getting bored with it.
“Circles And Squares” is my personal favorite track by Phuture Noize this year and on this album as well.
It has an amazing mid-intro with a very quirky, bassy kick, rounding out the trio of such tracks and it has a melody unlike anything else. It is a melody of otherworldly beauty. Let’s break it down, shall we?
A faint synth plays a whimsical melody. It lulls you. It relaxes you. A warm bass picks up with the vocals. The relaxation continues but then you start to hear the drums and the percussion pick up the pace. We are being thrown into a buildup at the end of which is a fantastic mid-intro. High-pitched bleeps and screeches mixed together with a very deep bass make for an interesting experience.
We enter the break, a world of atmosphere and warm bass. It again gives us a false sense of security, of calmness. But then the melody hits. A symphony of sound hits your ears, a hauntingly beautiful but ultimately sad and melancholic melody. It is one of the most beautiful melodies I’ve had the pleasure of hearing, it truly is a masterpiece of music.
If I were to rate tracks individually still, I wouldn’t hesitate to give it a 10 or an 11/10. It is perfect, for me that is. It has everything I want from a track like this and it doesn’t overstay its welcome. It comes and goes by in a flash but it manages to leave a lasting impression. I absolutely adore this track.
Mirroring “Loggin In”, the interlude titled “Going Under” talks about the story of the album.
It again represents a very sociocritical worldview. I think I spoke enough about the message already and what it entails. This is simply a continuation of that very same message.
the sky, it holds thunder.
the ocean roars, as I go under.
trapped in this distorted reality.
realizing greed, created this entirely.
realizing greed, created the Black Mirror Society.
“Make The World Go” has a very ‘hallowed’ vibe if you catch my drift. It feels, sounds, and probably is intended to sound like a prayer.
Even the melody reminds me of various prayers and songs from church. The vocals are “Money make the world go ‘round’,” which enforces this feeling. This dogmatic, almost cult-like pursuit of worth, of materialistic values and possessions, is what describes our modern society the best.
It is not so much a criticism of the situation, as much as it is just a statement, an observation. There is no dispute, this is what drives the world forward, but everyone has the right to decide for themselves what kind of message they want to take away from it. Context matters more than anything, and in the context of this album, the message of this track is definitely socio-critical instead of being just an observation.
It’s a very solid and danceable track, but I feel like it’s much more suited for home listening, especially in the context of the album itself.
If there are any things to note here musically aside from the vibes and the melody reminding me of prayers, it’s the small cuts and breaks in the climaxes creating a dissonance, disconnection. Almost like if a glitch was tearing through the fabric of the establishment of greed. I very much like this effect. Also, the slow-downs of the melody at the end of the climaxes are a very nice touch.
“Lost In The Moment” is the only track to feature a psy mid-intro and probably the most energetic, dancefloor-oriented track on the album, aside from “Run Away”.
“Lost In The Moment” is true to its name. It’s a track lost in the moment. It comes with a big flash and it fades away just as quickly. For me at least, it didn’t leave any lasting impression except for the mid-intro. It’s a mid-intro that reminds us just how raw Phuture Noize used to be from 2014 to 2016, a period where he would easily be featured in the same time slot as Radical Redemption, Warface, Delete, Titan and many more. The entire latter third of the album reminds us of this, but this track, in particular, does it the most. I am not too big on the melody. It doesn’t stick with me, but I do enjoy it when I am listening to the track.
“United States of Amnesia”, aptly nicknamed ‘Sweet Dreams’ before release, is a gloomy track with cyberpunk vibes.
It’s a lullaby almost, but it’s so perfect. If anyone still had any doubts, United States of Amnesia criticizes the modern capitalistic USA with its “American Dream” perverted and defiled by its unending greed and lust for possessions. The USA forgot its roots, its beginnings, its core ideals. It’s almost as if the entire country suffered from collective amnesia. Hence the name.
This gloomy atmosphere fades briefly for the time of the mid-intro which is decently energetic, but once you get to the break, it all comes back. Rain sounds, slow trap beat, gloomy vocals and melancholic melody. The melody also reminds me of “Existence Through Sound”. It’s basically the same, but slower note progression in the beginning and ends in a different way. It is reaching high but never quite gets there and always ends on a lower note than it begins. I’m not sure if this is an intentional detail, but it really is reflective of most great empires. Anyways, without trying to be too philosophical on this one, I see this in the same way as “The Temple” from Pursuit of Thunder. Amazing atmosphere, rather sad vibes, and decent energy. I love it.
My fourth favorite track of the album is “Kill The Future”.
Beginning a track with piano notes is always a nice way to sound like you’re making a Hans Zimmer soundtrack. In fact, this track reminds me of Inception and its soundtrack the most. “Kill The Future” is energetic and it has a fantastic melody, and its message is not a new thought in the music world. Out with the old, in with the new. However, in this case, it’s rather: out with the old ideals and ideas of the future, and in with the new and fresh ones. A livable future instead of a dystopian horror like the one the world is collectively drifting towards.
“We Are The Future” is this album’s “Chaos & Order”, a new epilogue track.
The track doesn’t quite live up to that or its remix by MYST, but by the gods it is trying its best to do so and the result is fantastic. “We Are The Future” has a happier, more epic kind of melody and really embodies a positive, optimistic lookout on the future. It has higher energy than the gloomier tracks that just came before it and it is perfect to close out a Phuture Noize set and closes the album quite well too.
It doesn’t finish the story but instead it concludes a chapter of it, with a hopeful look ahead. This point is driven home even more by having the second climax be a sudden crescendo of hardcore beats. Thankfully Phuture Noize’s kicks lend themselves very well to the task and he made them work in this structure with very minimal effort. This sudden explosion of energy then winds down into a full minute of peaceful music. The same as with “Chaos & Order”, it plays out and ends it all.
We are the future. We will remain here.
Phuture Noize is the undisputed god of concept albums within the hardstyle scene.
No one has produced as many or produced as good ones as he did with Black Mirror Society, Pursuit of Thunder, and Phuture Propaganda before. The only ones even coming close to this are Audiofreq’s Adiology/Audioception albums, as well as The 9 Circles by Warface.
The way the story is told through the multitude of tracks and how it is actually meaningful and coherent is something that is praiseworthy. So many people release albums with no concept in mind and just as a collection of tracks; looking at you Radical Redemption – although at least Annihilate and Spell of Sin had a consistent theme going through them, The One Man Army and The Road To Redemption don’t really do.
This is why, even tho I enjoy MYST’s and Rebelion’s music and style just a tad more than that of Phuture Noize’s, I still regard Phuture Noize a better artist overall, simply because he is the complete package. He’s got music, artistry, storytelling and everything around it down to a fault. I won’t ever stop supporting the dude and I won’t ever stop listening to his music. Phuture Noize is the single most important contemporary figure of hardstyle in my opinion.