In Retrospect: Symbol by Engine EarZ Experiment
A look back at prior Grammy nominee and forward-thinking album, Symbol, released in 2018 by Engine EarZ Experiment.
By Ben Jacklin
Engine EarZ Experiment is the brainchild of Prash Mistry, producing a fascinating, eclectic album in Symbol that stands out in the history of the Immersive Audio category. It only takes one listen to establish why this has been selected. Though it varies greatly from many of the other nominees, especially in the 2019 selection, it does a brilliant job of showcasing the audio capabilities of an Auro-3D release.
Engine EarZ Experiment grew hugely in popularity after several live sessions recorded for the BBC went viral. Prashant’s work in the industry is something you may already be familiar with. He’s worked with Akala, Jorja Smith on her incredible EP Blue Lights, and Maverick Sabre. In Symbol, he shows his ear for production in a new, incredible soundstage, as well as his musicianship, and his new troupe of musical friends, too. Collaborations are central to this “experiment” and there are many musicians given their cameo moments within. Aloe Blacc and Akala are two of these musicians.
It is fantastic to see a musician with such an awareness of this format and method of releasing music recognized with a Grammy Award nomination. “Prash,” as his friends call him, spoke to UKF about the release method: “I believe it is to take into account the move towards VR/AR as well as other cutting edge advancements in the way music is being consumed now. It’s such an exciting time for the audio community as we’re now being called on to soundtrack entire online experiences beyond more traditional artforms.”
Turning this audio experience from a standard mix to an immersive audio mix was the work of Darcy Proper, with Ronald Prent assisting.
This album has a real feeling of not giving a damn, and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. The album has a sense of freedom to it. All collaborators are given their space to breathe, and take the album in a new direction during their cameo. New ideas, instrumentation and voices (both literal and proverbial) can be heard injected into every new track, as each passes by with its own energy.
The themes that run through this album are a soulful vibe, and contain a feel of social commentary. In times of uncertainty, especially in the UK where Mistry and many of the musicians involved are based, these thematic ideas are the glue holding together the album, combined with a soundscape that gives organic life to a largely electronic album.
Synth sounds and futuristic drums are intertwined with a selection of nature samples and voice clips. The organic and natural backdrop to an album heavy on production, and a chance for the layers to shine through in an immersive mix. The album feels minimal at first listen, but the further you delve, the more incidental sounds and beautiful layers you find. Prashant’s production unfurls the more you listen, and once this album gets its teeth into you, you are going to want to keep listening.
About the Author
Ben is a writer and musician from the UK with a background in music technology. He writes about engineering and production, musicianship and music equipment for a number of publications including his own site, subreel.com