Queer fantasies flow seamlessly on ‘Hive Mind’

There are two ways to define the hive mind concept. In science fiction, this is when the unified consciousness of aliens helps them gain control over each alien’s uniqueness. It ensures that all decisions made by the group go unchallenged by an individual’s own ideas. The second concept refers to a collaboration where people share their respective knowledge and skills with one another to reach a common goal.

The decision by The Internet to name their latest album Hive Mind is an amalgamation of the two concepts.

A few weeks ago, Matt Martians gave his explanation of the name during an interview on the radio talk show Sway in the Morning.

“A hive mind is a collective ego, a collective mind. When people are together they have a collective mind-set. When we’re together we all have a common goal and we move in the same direction … I got it from Marvel comics, so it’s not really that deep. It’s like a group in the comic books that are like collective psychics, who are super-powerful when they’re together.”

The Internet is a Los Angeles-based band that uses its collective talent to paint sonic pictures that communicate heartbreak, falling in love, ukushela and the vibe at a perfect party through a mash-up of funk, neosoul, trip-hop and quiet storm.

The band’s musical canvases are sketched by Martians on keys, Steve Lacy on acoustic strings, Patrick Paige II on bass and Christopher Smith on drums. Then Syd’s vocals step onto the canvas to paint elaborate scenes in hushed notes and sensual exhalations that cater to queer fantasies in a way that redefines what Janet Jackson and Aaliyah introduced my generation to.

Hive Mind is the collective’s fourth studio album, following Purple Naked Ladies, Feel Good and Ego Death.

What makes Hive Mind worth writing about is it comes after all five band members have pursued solo projects since the release of their last collaboration in 2015. So, like the science fiction concept of hive mind, they have scratched the itch to serve their personal artistic egos and can now focus on The Internet.

Perhaps the reason they have grown to understand each other’s skills and how to enhance them is coupled with the fact that they have built long-term friendships. This is demonstrated in some instances by omitting or altering the band members’ roles on certain records. On songs such as Roll (Burbank Funk) Syd lets Lacy take the vocal lead, while she backs him in nonchalant high notes.

Similarly, her vocals do not feature in Beat Goes On. Instead, there’s a medley, courtesy of Lacy and Martians. The result is a quiet cohesion between the instruments and vocals.

On the first track, Come Together, the quiet guitar strings, occasional keys, soft percussions and choral harmonies between Syd and Lacy make for a calm entrance and encourage the listener to sing along to the easily memorable lyrics.

From there, the remaining 12 songs fall into one another in a thick, tender, syrup-like motion — there is no pause between tracks.

The lyrical element of the album makes it possible for this seamlessness to happen, because the songs’ topics live in the confines of romantic love and hook-ups.

There is a slight exception in It Gets Better (With Time) where, although the presence of romantic undertones can be discerned, the message is centred on life’s trials as a source of learning and strength.

Unfortunately the smooth consistency between tracks can present a problem because Hive Mind requires a few repeats before listeners can differentiate between the respective tracks. 

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Zaza Hlalethwa
Zaza Hlalethwa
Zaza Hlalethwa studies Digital Democracy, New Media and Political Activism, and Digital Politics.

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