April 28 2015 05:31 PM

'Natural Mind' is another strong step forward for producer


Mystery Cave
Natural Mind EP (Psychic Fortitude)

John Christopher Harris II has become a prolific and innovative fixture in the San Diego beatmaker scene over the past five years, and has proven to be reliably compelling as his career progresses. Under his Mystery Cave moniker, he's logged an impressive number of shows, and he's released a long list of various EPs and cassettes, and just last year dropped his best release to date: DEEP_FIELD.

Judging by the gorgeously warm and organic sounding compositions of his newly released Natural Mind EP, it's tempting to say Harris has taken his beautifully layered sample-based psychedelia to a higher level. In the past, Mystery Cave took cues from producers from just up the road in Los Angeles, like glitch hip-hop hero Flying Lotus. But where FlyLo has a tendency to take his beat-driven compositions into a heady realm of funk and jazz fusion, Mystery Cave tends to surf a more ethereal plane—and it results in some truly dazzling sounds on Natural Mind.

Just as the crystals adorning the cover art would suggest, Natural Mind is partially rooted in New Age music, and its gossamer sheets of synthesizer lend it a relaxing quality that might lose its hold on the listener without the proper counterpoint. But on a track like "Sun Chime," Harris lets that meditative synthesizer stick around just long enough before incorporating some polyrhythmic beats and a subtle, but deep layer of bass. Opening track "T.I.M.E." takes the opposite approach, starting off with a lazy shuffle of drums before the trippy whoosh of samples sweeps in and takes over. It's simultaneously soothing and overwhelming.

The catchiest number on Natural Mind is its closing track, "Water Sign," which has more of a concrete hook than any other track here. And though every sound that Mystery Cave makes is entirely produced by synthesizers and samplers, there's a lot here that could be mistaken for actual acoustic instruments: bells, voices, strings and whistles. With every new release, Mystery Cave seems to take his sound just a little bit further, and continues to refine and perfect it. Natural Mind comes and goes quickly, but it's a thrilling ride, no matter how serene and blissed out it may seem on first listen.

Email jefft@sdcitybeat.com or follow him at @1000TimesJeff