Following a nearly ten year hiatus, Mae recently released their first full-length album in said time, Multisensory Aesthetic Experience. After such a long wait, expectations and hopes inevitably were soaring high for what promised to be that “multisensory aesthetic experience,” the group of words the band lives by and is even named for (M.A.E.). Sadly though, hopes fly a little too high for this project, and the result ends up short of expectations with the three-piece band failing to deliver on their promise of an experience. Instead, the band’s fourth full album of original material is more like a false start or a tumble down the runway in what comes across as an attempt at riding the chillwave wave.
The album features mash-ups of electronic and lo-fi styles typical of the trending subgenre alongside guitar riffs and tempos characteristic of rock or emo tracks. Unfortunately, the result leads the listener to tumble down the runway struggling to get their feet under them and really give in to the music.
Despite the combined efforts of the parts into the whole, independently a few of the tracks succeed. Songs like “No Promises (10001001001100)” – a feel good, lo-fi, mellow track that embraces some acoustic strumming – and “Kaleidoscope” best embody the style the band is aiming for on the album. In fact, “Kaleidoscope,” grandiose with strings, beats that crescendo, and clever lyrics, works the best. Combined with the instrumentation, when Dave Elkins sings, “Give me all your glow / Colors show / Collide us both,” you feel it on an almost spiritual level. (Collide-us-both, ka-leid-o-scope – get it?) In addition to the lyrics, the strings stand out most on the track. The violin bowing mesmerizes with its beauty. Lasting for five minutes, the opening track represents the experience that Mae promises in the self-named title. If every song fulfilled like this, Multisensory Aesthetic Experience would repel any criticism.
Instead, “Sing” and “The Overview” follow next, more of a representation of the rest of the album. Both tracks rely more heavily on the emo rock vibe from the last album released under Tooth and Nail Records, Destination: Beautiful. But “Sing” loses the listener in the middle of the track with the distorted electric guitar and jumble of electronic noises, switching up the feel. Mae is best at either end of the spectrum; the middle is lukewarm. Embrace the chillwave or go all the way back to the roots. The situation is the same with “The Overview.”
It’s clear the talent and the vision is there with Mae. Experimenting with one’s sound is desired and encouraged, and an artist cannot evolve without playing around and testing out new sounds. But Mae needed to take a step back and examine this release from a macro point of view. Looking at the album in pieces, the music delivers. Cumulatively though, the work misses the mark.