Los Angeles-based hip-hop producer Mndsgn, aka Ringgo Ancheta, was raised on the edge of a commune with no electricity, even while his father worked as a high-brow college professor. Dad was also an ex-member of the Philippine arm of the Aum Supreme Truth Cult as well, plus Ringgo didn't encounter modern music 'til he hitchhiked to the city. The point is, Mndsgn's debut album Yawn Zen is such a unique affair that it must have come from a maverick talent or a producer who just recently encountered decades of pop all at once. In this case, it's likely both, as there are wonderfully warm harmonies and innocent singing on the track "Exchanging" that probably come from recent exposure to Pet Sounds, and yet the angst and the jagged angles of the song all suggest the post-Deerhoof world of indie. Both of these influences are utilized not as tropes, but as fresh sparks, as if the Beach Boys and Deerhoof were running up the charts in tandem in 2014. Then there's the smoky "Sheets," where noir spy thrillers and ca-chunking drum machines combine for that alt and avant kind of hip-hop that's familiar ground for Stones Throw, and while the smooth and dreamy synth number "Txt (Msgs)" fits right in with the neo-soul and space disco revivals, it seems less retro hipster and more directly connected to the Giorgio Moroder or Deodato source-material. Mixing its eras with abandon, "Afternoon Shuffle" grooves as if there was a exotica/bachelor pad music revival in the '70s led by funk bands that was later remixed by Madlib. This fresh approach to mining music's past is coupled with a love of flowing rhythms and delicate melodies that define Mndsgn, plus these right-sized, mostly miniature songs are strung together in a way that makes Yawn Zen an album to embrace in total. Fresh takes on familiar sounds with plenty of warm soul makes this one a keeper.
AllMusic Review by David Jeffries