From the moment of their inception, MAE have existed in the cross-sectional spaces of creation. Art and innovation. Intricacy and accessibility. Beauty and chaos. Head and heart. Theirs was a meticulous crafting of soundscapes; painstakingly deliberate and blissfully spontaneous.
This multidimensional juxtaposition formed the friction point that sparked the creation of their now-classic early releases (2003’s Destination: Beautiful and 2005’s The Everglow), as well as the flame that guided their continued exploration throughout the ensuing decade (Capitol debut, Singularity, and the self-released Morning, Afternoon and Evening E.P.s). Attempts to categorize the band’s sound were made regularly and typically culminated in a hyphenated variation of the nebulous “emo” catch-all. But, the defining thread of MAE’s creation was their uncanny ability to find the heartstrings of the listener and make them resonate with a sympathetic hum.
However, within those juxtapositions lay a deeper revelation of MAE’s creative direction, a foreshadowing, perhaps. It was there if you listened closely—a tension within the manuka honey melodies, a yearning in the empty spaces, a kicking at the goads of limitation within the pre-determined structures. It was a longing for transcendence, not only of genre, but of consciousness—and not only of consciousness, but of perception. It was the entire reason and impetus behind the name, an acronym for “Multisensory Aesthetic Experience,” the evolving theory that enveloped drummer, Jacob Marshall’s foray into academia.
It’s no accident that MAE’s fourth studio LP bears the self-fulfilling prophecy of their namesake. Multisensory Aesthetic Experience, the band’s first full-length release in nearly a decade, is the arguable realization of their aspirations since conception. There is a liberation that occurs within the first few notes of the album, an untethering of the straight jacket of expectations. Categories are tossed back to the game shows where they belong, and the music becomes music, gloriously expansive, explorative, and addictively melodic.
The album dips and crescendos moment to moment, song to song with seamless ferocity. From the DMT-infused retro-space odyssey groove of “Kaleidoscope,” to the Byrne-esque mayhem of “The Overview,” to the contemplative hypnosis of “Simple Words,” it quickly becomes apparent that the heart-strings are no longer merely resonating; they’re playing full melodies that deftly counterbalance the compositions. The resulting experience is one that is visceral, impassioned, expansive—and yes, transcendent. The anthemic dynamism of the album’s progression is such that it pushes the listener to the very cusp of the multisensory aspect for which they’ve been striving since the beginning.
But for as much as Multisensory Aesthetic Experience represents the realization of Dave Elkins, Zach Gehring and Jacob Marshall’s collective creative vision, it’s the other aspects of the band’s new chapter that will facilitate its true culmination. The band’s tours in support of the album will be unlike any they’ve undertaken, with an increased emphasis on the experience, utilizing virtual reality to bring the swelling soundscapes to life with new abandon and in greater dimension, to aid the audience in a journey to realms yet unreached. In short, a Multisensory Aesthetic Experience.
“When we tour again and tell a new story, we have opportunities we’ve never even considered, even though the band has been called Multisensory Aesthetic Experience for a long time and put out so many releases,” Elkins says.
“You have to meet people where they are instead of asking people to come back to where they’ve been. It’s a theme to the album: Keep moving forward. It’s another reason why the band is doing this. When there’s growth and everything feels new, it’s harder and harder to do that. But it’s always possible. If you keep up with that growth, how can you not have your expectations and mind blown?”
- David Pogge