It’s almost a prerequisite that any member of Balming Tiger is at least somewhat original, and Mudd the student is no different. His latest EP, Field Trip, is a musical melting pot that pulls influences from frantic punk rock to wiry and distorted electronic, all the way to modern hip-hop. Undeniably interesting, it’s a sharp glimpse into the potential of an artist who, by all accounts, is happy to whet his appetite with anything which tickles his fancy.
Titular opener “Field Trip” bursts with nervous energy across its barely two-minute runtime, Mudd’s largely programmed vocals sharply navigating through thick electric guitars, galvanizing percussion and generally agitated composition. “What the fuck is going on?,” he sings, a thought that may go through many a listener’s mind listening to this structurally messy but endearing offering that leaves just as many questions as it does answers.
“Off Road Jam” continues with the same unabating charisma, the wiry guitars flitting between supercharged riffs and more melodic substance before a horn-tinged pre-chorus gives way to a tempered, rhythmic refrain. It’s another effort which barely scratches the two-minute mark, but one which is a lot more put together than its predecessor, and feels much more benign, even if there are still present rumblings of an artist more than willing to inject his music with hyperactivity.
At the midpoint, “Shepherd Boy” ups the vocal processing, but it’s the banjo strums, accordion melodies, and bassy, distorted electronics which are likely to pique the most curiosity. Starting out slow, it soon becomes a high-powered cut that races through its nimble composition both methodically and intensely. It’s clear at this point that Mudd the student is at his best when allowing himself to be free, and that his musical structure is most endearing when, somewhat ironically, unstructured.
“G-LOC” continues, the first verse filled with staccato blasts of electronics weaved in between raw, impassioned vocals before the chorus – a catchy, chantable hook which lets the singer declare, “I think I’m in a black hole” – delivers a punchy mission statement of rock-tinged uncertainty. As the track progresses it becomes a tad more formulaic, but it never fails to grab attention. The whirring, distorted instrumental finish is a particular highlight, the drum pads offering an equilibrium to a cacophonous wall of frenzied sounds before the seamless transition to the final piece of the EP, “7654.”
Speaking of which, it’s the finale which is perhaps the most purposefully restrained, with finger-plucked acoustic guitars supplementing thumping background drum beats and the sleek, autotuned vocals on show. There are times when a grand, musically exhilarating climax is teased but it never materializes, Mudd favoring a “what if” type debate in the listener’s head. It’s a solid end to a compelling EP, and one which seems to signal that the Balming Tiger member is unafraid to show that he can work well without the bells and whistles heard elsewhere.
The album as a whole may land on the short side timing-wise, but it still allows for a firm glimpse into the potential of the artist whilst also offering up plenty of genre-blending engagement which develops on his 2019 self-titled release. With that in mind, perhaps it’s worth keeping an eye on Mudd when Show Me the Money 10 rolls around.