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Fresh Kicks 202: myst milano.

Toronto’s myst milano. records a dazzlingly high-energy club mix for the Fresh Kicks series, and speaks to Megan Venzin about activism, AI, chronicling the conversation between Black music genres, and their new album, ‘Beyond The Uncanny Valley’

Run a Google search for myst milano., and the image results are a sight to behold. Adorned in flamboyant hats, beehive-spun braids, and soaring platforms, it appears the Toronto artist has the same command of avant-garde fashion as they do of story-driven hip-hop.

“As an artist, I think it’s important to look more like an idea than a person,” they tell DJ Mag on an afternoon video call from home. The former folk artist, who is now a staple of the city’s thriving nightlife scene, is catching a break between rehearsals for their soon-to-debut live show. The production features dazzling projections, costumed dancers, and stark vocals over invigorating rave-ready beats, and it arrives in tandem with their ‘Beyond The Uncanny Valley’ LP (out now via indie labels Phantom Limb and Halocline Trance), which sees its creator explore a vibe shift. 

“There’s a lot of slower, sadder, more somber songs on [‘Shapeshyfter’],” they explain, noting that the majority of that 2021 project came into focus amid the aftermath of George Floyd’s tragic murder. “I think for this new album, I wanted to take people into nightlife and into the world of what one of my DJ sets would sound like. I wanted it to be more energetic, right away.”

Music is a reflective art form, and so it makes sense that myst milano.’s recent works would exist on different ends of the spectrum. Throughout the pandemic, the Canadian producer, DJ, and rapper helmed the Instagram stories for Club Q, a queer online dance party that kept the LGBTQ+ community connected during periods of strict social distancing. When tunes weren’t cresting laptop speakers, milano. used the platform to encourage activism. “A lot of the people following that account lived in the United States, so it was a way to disseminate information about protests — how to keep yourself safe, and how to avoid tear gas, and how to protest smart so that you don’t get injured,” they detail.

While ‘Shapeshyfter’ absorbed the heavier energy brought on by challenging times, ‘Beyond The Uncanny Valley’ seeks to discuss another aspect of looming change. “As I was making the music, AI art was kind of becoming more popular and was a huge talking point in the zeitgeist,” they explain. “I was asking myself what my relationship to AI was and what my relationship to machinery was, and maybe even putting myself in the place of what it might feel like to be a machine learning.”

The result is a hard-hitting collection with fierce lyrics that explore themes both abstract and uniquely human — notes on sex, bliss, and how Black music continues to transcend generational and geographical boundaries. “The music that I listened to — the funk music and the breakbeats and even the amapiano — they all tie into each other, and there’s this really beautiful conversation that’s been happening across the Atlantic between pockets of Black diaspora,” they say of the long-player’s diverse influences. “I wanted to chronicle that in this album and show people how I’ve been engaging with it, and the parts of it that I’ve found the most interesting.”

Hints of Detroit techno, Chicago footwork, Jersey club, Memphis hip-hop, funk, neo-R&B, and other genres can be heard across the gritty, 10-track collection. Having also taken vogue classes for several years, milano. asserts that the intersection between social dance and music also helped shape the sonic fabric of ‘Beyond The Uncanny Valley’.

“I want to leave people with the message that art is uniquely human — that the way that you connect with it is uniquely human, that dancing and the need to dance is uniquely human,” they continue passionately, “and that nothing — no amount of technology or technological advancement — will ever change your human connection to art.” 

Breaka ‘The Startup’
DJ Polo ‘Demon Leak’
Bambii ‘Body’
Kaval ‘Impreza’
Devoye ‘69 Let’s Go!’
Bleaker ‘Hype (Funk)’
Anz ‘Inna Circle’
Kelela ‘Washed Away (Irtap & Sam Am Edit)’
Strict Face ‘Wildcat’
Escaflowne ‘Devoted’
Calvo Music ‘Don’t Stop Now’
070 Shake ‘Cocoon (Ballads Club Edit)’
Bianca Oblivion & ONHELL ‘Sinais’
DJ Swisha ‘Fake Molly’
Stef De Haan ‘Sexii Club Music’
KiNK ‘For the People’
Duke Dumont feat. A*M*E* ‘Need U (100%)’
Shygirl ‘Freak (Hedchef’s Phreaked Out Flip)’
Burna ‘Glocken’
Morelia ‘GTFO (Sinistarr Remix)’
Itoa ‘Oh No (feat. Nakamura Minami)’
Hyroglifics & Sinistarr ‘Turn Up’
Bad Bunny ‘Yo Perreo Sola (CHi-C Juke Remix)’
Aleroj ‘Dream Deseo Carajo’
Bun B & Jill Scott ‘So Gone (LAKIM’s ShoYoFootwork Edit)’

Want more? Check out Introspekt's Recognise mix and interview here

Megan Venzin is DJ Mag North America’s deputy editor. You can follow her on Twitter @Meggerzv