Andre Mistier’s journey through music has been an unconventional one. The New York musician, who has a foundation in theater, has explored the connection between electronic sounds and instrument-based rock since the inception of his first band Ism in 2004. In 2008, as his tenure with Ism was drawing to a close, Mistier began working on film soundtracks and theater scores, his first musical efforts done solo. The work was deeply compelling to the artist and he found himself moving into the sonic territory that became his new project, The Adversary. The music itself morphed, influenced by Mistier’s life and his personal experiences. “The Adversary’s music went through a whole bunch of iterations,” Mistier explains. “I was exploring a lot of things. I went to Burning Man last August and it affected my understanding of music, and the relationship between electronic stuff and live stuff and then—I got here.”
Here, which is being heralded by Chapter 1: The Ruins, the first in a series of releases that offer an ongoing narrative, is richly melodic and song-based and yet experimental and electronic. The series, recorded over a year and a half at Majestic Music in Williamsburg, was written and recorded almost entirely by Mistier, who brought in a few guest musicians to flesh out the songs. Throughout the process Mistier found himself interested in the spectrum of modern sound and what that can mean in the context of a song.
“There’s a certain honesty about acknowledging that the full range of sounds in our modern world includes everything from the human voice and birds chirping to the bleep of a cellphone and this mix is how we define our relationship to the world with sound,” the musician says. “In these Chapters, I was very interested in finding ways to deal with both this whole spectrum and to make sounds that were kind of hybrids. You can take a vocal, record it, run it through 45 filters, cut it up, run it through a bunch of filters again, and then it sounds like a drum or a synthesizer or whatever noise you like. That’s part of the basis for this.”
Embedded in these sounds is a story, one that comes together both in the songs and in a series of accompanying videos. The first chapter takes the listener to a post-apocalyptic world, recounting a tale of two people dancing through the ruins of New York, [and the failing surveillance system, which tries to monitor them. The pair finds, through the course of the songs, that with all the structures of society gone, there are actually more freedoms to be found. It’s one piece of a larger whole that Mistier feels will slowly come together as the chapters are released.
“It’s an exploration of our modern relationship to technology and human-ness,” Mistier says. “To me, it’s one of the big issues we’re all grappling with, or at some point have to grapple with. Does technology lose humanity? Does technology facilitate humanity? And clearly, it’s kind of doing both. I’m really interested in exploring that process and setting it in a not-present-day context makes it easy to extrapolate how far it can and can’t go.”
The accompanying videos and forthcoming live show will lend a visual aesthetic to this ongoing narrative, clearly inspired by Mistier’s work in theater over the years. Each chapter will feature one video that connects to a specific song – for Chapter 1: The Ruins, that track is “Maybelline.” The clips don’t just reflect the songs; they augment them, offering the audience a chance to fill in the pieces of the story left open in the Chapters. The live show, too, will extend the experience of the music, providing a visual spectacle related to the narrative. The music, melodic and relatable although experimental and exploratory in nature, reveals itself more fully through these visual elements. Those familiar with Mistier’s work, both musical and otherwise, may not be surprised that his journey has brought him here, to this place of solo, multimedia expression.
“I feel like there’s two main experiences you’re getting out of music as a writer,” Mistier says. “One is this beautiful collaboration. And the other is sound painting. And the solo process to me is very much like painting, but like four-dimensional painting. Painting with time. At any given moment there’s all these different sounds going on and they function like colors. But also it moves through the duration of a song and changes and contours as it goes. I’ve found that process really rewarding and it’s taken me to where I am today. And now I’m looking forward to bringing these two pieces of the musical experience together with the live version of The Adversary.”