Lake George Native Releases “Cryptic Cosmic” First Album
Cryptic Cosmic is the title of local artist Derek Mitchell’s (a.k.a. Mitochi) immersive debut on Glens Falls’ Sub-Bombin Records, released Tuesday, June 26. Like some of the ambient, instrumental pioneers that precede him—Jean Michel Jarre or Tangerine Dream—Mitchell layers synthesizer tones that swell, whirl, and ripple to make a galactic sound. Unlike them, however, Mitchell works with hip-hop beats and manipulated rap samples.
“I love the beat of hip-hop, and I do a lot of sampling,” Mitchell says, who was born and raised in Lake George. But other influences, like new electronica music, have also shaped Cryptic Cosmic. “I don’t pigeonhole myself into just being a hip-hop person,” he says.
Mitchell has been involved with music in some shape or form since he was fairly young. When he was roughly 15, he dabbled in a couple different bands, playing bass and electric guitar. In the first, he covered songs by Nirvana, the 90s grunge band, and with the second, played punk rock out of a Queensbury garage. However, certain elements of hip-hop, the beats and rhythms in particular, increasingly appealed to him. He took a shot at writing rhymes and even did some recording in a studio in the old Troy Shirt Factory building, yet he didn’t appear to be cut out for it.
“I don’t have the voice for it, and my rhymes were always so abstract that no one knew what I was talking about most of the time,” he says.
When Mitchell acquired a basic drum machine in 2002, he found his niche. Since then, he has specialized in making those electronic beats and rhythms that initially attracted him to hip-hop. It was those instrumental aspects of hip-hop, more so than the lyrical content that had appealed to him. “It’s sometimes too ‘streetish’,” he says, “there’s too much talk about drugs, murder, and violence.”
Until recently, producing music has been a strictly personal, and more or less private, interest for Mitchell. “I’ve been working on this stuff for myself for a long time and not really playing it for other people,” he says. “I didn’t show it to anyone else. But then I had enough material that felt like an album.”
As a local label that specializes in instrumental hip-hop, Sub-Bombin seemed like the right place for Mitchell. On the label were producers working in a similar style, many of whom he considers influences. “I’ve always liked what those guys do and always paid attention to their label,” he says. Mitchell got in contact with Sub-Bombin, and the label likewise thought he’d make a good addition.
“He’s really broadened the musical spectrum of the label,” says Collin Badger (a.k.a. Midas), co-founder of Sub-Bombin. “That he can move between instrumental hip hop and a more ambient style should appeal to everybody. He’s a local musician from Lake George, too, which is always a draw for us.”
Sub-Bombin has released Cryptic on a limited edition USB card, which includes two bonus tracks. It’s an appropriate vehicle for this sequence of airy, futuristic songs. Cryptic is music for a planetarium, a passage up the Guggenheim building, or a walk along a dramatic shoreline. The quasi-video-game synths pan in and out as though coming and going from far-flung distances. The album is not something that forcibly hits you, so much as an open space that you can enter.
However, the truly original elements of the album lie in the hip-hop beats and rap samples. Rather than take a purely downtempo, contemplative approach, as most so-called “space music” tends to do, Cryptic has moments of danceablility. Call it hip-hop in slow motion. The tempo never reaches into the extremes, but it is, nevertheless, rather irresistible.
As the title of the album indicates, in addition to songs like “The Unknown Deep,” mystery is at the heart of Cryptic. “Some of the songs have a certain meaning to me,” Mitchell says, “but I wanted to do the album so that people could fill in the blanks for themselves.”