The teenage version of a fight between Battles and Tera Melos is perhaps the most unlikely candidate in recent history for a major label debut, and yet here we have Arizona. The brain child of Henry Kohen, Mylets first caught my attention in 2013 when a performance of his song, “Ampersand”, was featured on film for the Sargent House Glassroom recording sessions: words like “prodigy” came to mind when it became apparent that the 19 year-old was creating each and every sound in the song on-the-spot live. There are plenty of loop-rock soloists out there, but Kohen’s intense blend of drum-machine tracking, dextrous guitar playing and angst-ridden vocals makes something exciting and altogether so satisfying to absorb.
Arizona finds the young performer struggling to escape the innocent and awkward notes that his first extended plays, wrapped up recently in the compilation Retcon, understandably failed to avoid. Vocal takes are doubled and often feature a louder or shouted rendition behind the more melodic lead. The real star of the record is the guitar work, which can most closely be compared to Los Angeles math-rock band El Ten Eleven, which also features prominent looping and a masterful knowledge of the fretboard. Arizona moves around more than most of its contemporaries, owing in part to the one-man-band shtick: songs feature plenty of stop-start interludes broken apart by different timings, effects and tempos, some more welcome than others.
The kind of tech geeks that stand at the front of Mogwai shows to photograph the pedal collections are exactly the kind of people that will appreciate Mylets’ variety of sound most. The plethora of unique and mesmerizing sounds coming out of Kohen and his pickups is simply extraordinary, from clean scale structures to radically warped octave effects, thunderous overdrives and layer upon layer of harmonies. First-time listeners would be hard pressed to isolate the lack of a bassist on Arizona—although the drum tracks, by necessity simplified to fit within a live context, fail to hold up to the same level as the plethora of excellent guitar lines on each track.
At this stage in his career, Kohen seems pretty dedicated to the solo musician thing—which could have been a deciding factor in his deal with Sargent House to begin with. Arizona is a phenomenal effort by a surprisingly young artist. As fantastic as Arizona is, what’s just as exciting is where Mylets will go from here. A full band supporting Kohen’s fantastic blend of math-rock and experimental technical wizardry might just help Mylets breathe into the future, but for now the sheer display of prowess Kohen exerts is more than enough to capture his audience’s attention.