The Mall is the solo project of Mark Plant. A regular of the St. Louis punk scene, Mark has played synths for shoegaze outfit Nibiru, shredded for hardcore group Dentist and played with raw pop tunes of Times Beach. All of these skills come together in their first release for The Mall entitled Zone.
Zone’s sound is a combination of dance-pop and hardcore, where lush synth beats and glimmering harmonies glide underneath Plant’s acidic punk-laced vocals. Their voice is faded out as they yell and howl underneath a haze of electronic textures. It’s like the listener is at the back of a crowded and sweaty night club, struggling to hear the singer from a stage out of reach. It’s a deliberate choice that creates a unique and interesting effect. For me it creates a feeling of being lost amongst the drowned out masses, where your voice carries no weight and hope is but a dream. That may not be the case for everyone, but one thing’s for sure though, in doing so Plant has captured the clamoring emotions of hardcore together with stylistic dance pop. A clash of extremes that works surprisingly well in Zone.
These ideas emerge immediately in opener “An Answer” where graceful synths flow atop hard pounding beats and grimy textures. It’s dark and sweaty but very catchy – a headbanger with a pleasant, irresistible groove. “Behind Heat” ramps up the intensity. It starts with a slow, yet with a constant simmering of anger and tension that soon explodes through its sweltering breakdowns. “Turing Machine” makes heavy use of chiptunes reminiscent of 80’s video game music paired with the same punk energy of that decade. A sort of digital anarchy anthem.
The standout tracks here are “Habit” where the synths glimmer with hope, billowing like elevated strings amidst a smoky undertone of rough textures. A sentimental lament to a world of cacophony. In title track “Zone”, Plant strips down the percussion to compose a minimalist movement of textures that stretches to a far off horizon. Atmospheric and full of mystery, the howling electronics and bending tones glide together in an introspective yet eerie way. Closing track “Function” resembles darkwave most of all. A gloomy landscape of muted percussion and drowned out vocals yells and pleads for reprieve from all the haze. Despite the fog of textures that obscures this track, every bit of hope and sorrow still rings true in this masterful track.
The Mall combines synth, punk and dance music seamlessly in one unique package. Zone has captured Plant’s vision and expertise – one that promises a bright and interesting future ahead of them.