Mildreda is the brainchild of Jan Dewulf. Originally active in the mid 90’s, gaining brief popularity and playing live shows with many other prominent European dark electronic acts, the project was prematurely put to rest before it could reach its peak as he went on to focus on his other project Diskonnekted. Returning in 2016 with the digital-only album “Coward Philosophy” the project was officially reborn, coming back with a stunning dark electro bang. And now with “I Was Never Really There” he has brought his music to the next level, both refining the core of his sound into a tight package as presented on this release as well as getting this album into people’s hands by having this release be his first full physical release.
The album clearly takes strong influence from 90’s Industrial legends like The Klinik, Skinny Puppy, and Front Line Assembly, really creatively riffing upon the “crushing sounds of the post-apocalypse” type elements you’ll find in all of their respective sounds. While much of the album is typically a driving-hard electro affair they do take a few side adventures into more scenic soundscapes. You’ll find a wide variety of songs verging from densely layered electro ballads, to upbeat mid-tempo club bangers, and of course, lots of straight-up aggressive adrenaline-infused classic electro-industrial stomps. Packaged near the middle / back of the album are some interesting collaborations with Don Gordon from Numb, Cyan from Eternal Conflict, and a dream collab with Dirk Ivens of The Klinik. Pulling the whole album together nicely, and a cool final collaborative touch is a tight and stylistic mastering job by none other than Læther Strip’s Claus Larsen. The album truly sounds sonically cohesive and on-point genre-wise, as you would expect from such a veteran in the scene handling the final mixes.
Across the album, you’ll find an explosive display of driving neo-organic drums and distorted heavy basslines, expertly layered synthetics and arpeggiators giving the feel of futuristic machinery and landscapes, and lots of sound effects sounding straight from a sci-fi movie that help add to the ever-present dystopian vibes. Though every track seems to contain similar elements with hard percussive sounds and harsh vocals, the varied pace and energies found throughout the release keep the album flowing nicely. Overall I find the album really strikes a strong balance between the heavier and driving elements of the songs and the atmospheric elements and manages to be a solid blend between classic 80s EBM vibes, with those thick and heavy Front 242 / Nitzer Ebb inspired basslines, and 90s electro-industrial, with the densely layered and progressively structured sample-heavy song composition.
For me personally, I most prominently heard the Front Line Assembly inspiration across the album, especially with all of the densely layered cyberpunk inspired arpeggiator sounds found continually flittering and fluttering throughout every track. Though noticeably there is a raw percussive inspiration to their sound ala Skinny Puppy and Nine Inch Nails which can also be strongly heard throughout, which gives a distinctively lively feel to their music (far more so then a lot of other EBM inspired bands) and counterparts pleasantly to the rest of the music’s very synthetic nature. Further channeling that classic industrial sound, across the release you will find frequent futuristic and post-apocalyptic samples which add an atmospheric edge to the album and strongly complement the aesthetic of the release. They are strategically placed and draw you into the songs, providing a unique quality to each one, fleshing out the sonic character and nuance of each piece. The album, especially when listened to from beginning to end, paints a very specific sonic landscape, one that is dark, epic and thematic which as a listener I found very engaging and evoking.
The vocals can be a bit repetitive in nature (which is common in this genre, with very similar sound effects across many tracks) and lay somewhere between the vocoded whisper shout you’d expect from Front Line Assembly and the darker rasp you’d hear in much of more modern Dark Electro. However, they are strong, match the music, and get energetic and diverse enough in the delivery that it can keep you entertained especially when backed with the layered lush synth sounds that glue the songs together. Though the vocals could be more tense, with so much going in the music the two powers might conflict with one another. Overall a solid listen, beginning to end, and the album has generally quality mixing. It was a bit low-end heavy but genre-wise that isn’t the worst thing. Most of them found it’s way onto my own personal playlists and I look forward to hearing more from them in the future as I was quite impressed with this release.