Breatharian, the 2013 concept album from Los Angeles producer Mndsgn (pronounced “mind design”), a.k.a. Ringgo Ancheta, is as good as spacey instrumental hip-hop gets, with imaginatively produced soundscapes and crazy flips of Stefano Torossi’s ill 1974 instrumental “Running Fast” and the OutKast hit “B.O.B.,” which gets sped up to the point where Alvin and the Chipmunks would hear it and chirp, “Whoa, slow down, 3 Stacks, we can’t understand you.” Yawn Zen marks the Stones Throw debut of Mndsgn, whose bio is as bizarre as many of his instrumentals (he was raised in a Jersey commune by parents who fled the Filipino chapter of the Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo after the cult became a terrorist organization that’s best known these days for the 1995 Tokyo subway sarin attack). While I think Breatharian is the superior Mndsgn release, Yawn Zen, which Mndsgn once said was recorded “in a state of bliss,” isn’t too shabby either.
Yawn Zen gives off the vibe of a tinfoil-masked extraterrestrial who’s landed in the L.A. harbor, prefers to walk instead of drive around a machine like everyone else down there and has just started blending in with the local beatheads and breakdancers, which is precisely what the shot-on-VHS and creepy-looking video for “Eggs” (a Mndsgn single that’s not found on Yawn Zen) appears to be about. “Homewards,” “Frugality,” “Camelblues” and the dub groove of “Txt (MSGS)” are the album’s strongest cuts and the best ones to freestyle over.
“Camelblues” is particularly noteworthy because Mndsgn (or some other male vocalist) briefly sings out of nowhere the Towa Tei melody that Dilla and the Ummah transformed into a classic hook during the Tribe Called Quest joint “Find a Way.” This isn’t conventional instrumental hip-hop, but that’s why Yawn Zen is worth a listen. There’s a lot to enjoy about Yawn Zen, and as our site has frequently said before, Mndsgn is a producer to watch — whether through a creepy tinfoil mask or not.