“Mindful Beats Vol. 2” has one of the most simultaneously accurate and misleading album names of the past year. On a literal level, the title tells no lies — it is a second volume of beats made by Osaka producer Masaki Konagai, who records under the moniker of mfp. Yet it also makes it sound like an aural demo reel, a collection of music in search of an MC to rap over the sounds within. It’s anything but, “Mindful Beats Vol. 2” is a confident and loud 50 minutes of tracks that doen’t need any vocal support in order to shine.
And shine it does — almost glittering. mfp makes unabashedly bright music and nearly every song on this album is packed with electric noises. An early highlight, “Theme For The Movement,” will come close to blowing out your speakers with its barrage of synths piled on top of a hip-hop-inspired beat. “Steppin’ Into Changes” surges even more, a high-stepper smeared in upbeat digital noise that practically demands the song be played over footage of singing cartoon flowers. mfp runs with forward-thinking electronic music collectives such as Osaka’s Innit and Cosmopolyphonic Radio, and the dance influence of those circles — along with the spaced-out experiments of Los Angeles label Brainfeeder, which houses the likes of Flying Lotus and Teebs — spring up all over this release.
mfp also loves hip-hop, and what makes “Mindful Beats Vol. 2” really stand out is how his knowledge of the genre bleeds through the blips and bleeps. Konagai has told The Japan Times previously that he loves the music of late producer J. Dilla, and he has also boned up on his techniques, especially when it comes to sampling. mfp lifts vocals from old pop records and rap songs — “Watch Out, Twinkle!” opens with R&B singer Phyllis Hyman before swerving into a boisterous hip-hop sample. “Field of Flowers (You & You)” opens with a voice bending time, not melding with the beat but passing through it like a memory. These additions come off as deeply personal touches, sounds that mfp likes and has made new again. Coupled with the neon noise and romantic song titles (“Feel & Touch My Hair,” “One Mo’ Girl”), this sonic approach makes for an album far more exciting than its title suggests — this is a love letter to music.