MGMT appeals to niche synth lovers on single ‘As You Move Through the World’

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While MGMT has always been branded as somewhat of a neo-psychedelic rock outfit, its new single, “As You Move Through the World,” truly shows that the duo has grown into this label, if not completely embraced the genre’s versatility and affinity for experimentation. Released on March 20, the single follows the release of the track “In the Afternoon,” which was unveiled at the end of last year. But a key factor of “As You Move Through the World” is that it sounds nothing like its preceding single — or any distinguishable track MGMT has released in the past. It’s this detail that piques curiosity and makes the song sound that much better.

Members Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser have tested out an array of electronic sounds, ranging from pop synth on their early work to dark funk on MGMT’s latest release, Little Dark Age, in 2018. “As You Move Through the World” is a consolidation of all the electronic beat techniques the two have trialed over their music careers.

The song begins with a two-minute-long, acid-inspired intro. It turns the track’s title into a reality, almost physically ushering listeners through the web of washed-out keyboard notes that greet them. At one point or another, listeners may begin to wonder if the entire song is just a soft, seven-minute synthfest. But the track’s mystery and unexpectedness keep ears trained and eager. It’s this uncertainty, which very lightly undertones the song, that also makes the title’s meaning progressively clearer over the course of the sprawling tune.

And then, the drums kick in. 

They’re beautiful. They’re raw. They fit seamlessly into the flow of distorted synths, a glimpse of clarity in a murky future. They disappear for a fleeting moment, only to make a sudden comeback, stronger than ever. These drums aren’t insanely heavy or particularly sharp, but they belong, and that’s what matters most. In fact, they’re the best part of the song, looking solely at execution and placement.

Following the powerful drum entrance, the song becomes increasingly fuzzy, like a pleasant drug trip. Some parts of the outro do cause listeners to lose attention, but they’re likely either too deep into the sonic atmosphere or too zoned out to really care. And as slowly as the song begins, it quickly and softly fades out, jolting listeners out of the strange daydream.

The best way to describe “As You Move Through the World” is an optical illusion of sound. It’s entrancing, and despite having minimal lyrics, it shows the evolution and maturation of MGMT. As one of the group’s first independently released songs, the instrumentalists’ pure creative agency makes it truly unique. It’s a song that may need to grow on some listeners, but it’s the epitome of true psychedelic music and of the new and improved MGMT.

Pooja Bale covers music. Contact her at [email protected].