Ringgo Ancheta is all about balance. As Mndsgn, he’s been putting out enigmatic beat tapes for years, smothering loping breaks under a humid atmosphere that accommodate both rust and greenery alike. No wonder he gravitated from the Jersey/Philly area to the welcoming arms of Los Angeles’s beat scene — that influence is all over the warbling space-jazz riffs, backward-played loverman soul and springy drum breaks of his earlier self-released works (like 2012′s lush freebie download Exts). With the Stones Throw affiliation adding an additional push to his work — now he’s labelmates with cassette-beat abstractionist Jonwayne instead of just a collaborator — the stylistic connection is even clearer. But recent works, like his summer 2014 mixtape Surface Outtakes, have revealed nuances that are unique to Mndsgn — particularly the way he lets sleek and rough sounds bump up against each other.
Yawn Zen is an album that rides on shaky, crackly mid-fidelity sound; seesaw-momentum melody; and occasional moments of deliberately flat, almost dazed-sounding vocals molded into something distinctly meditative. This is a beat record where kaleidoscopic keyboards pump deep pulses even when they hover drumless in the air, where moments that sound like cluttered chaos in (like the Jean-Jacques Perrey-style synth burbles in “Frugality”) resolve into calm order. The gently creeping, skyward-staring highlight “Exchanging” is scarcely more than a looped guitar, warmly shivering chimes, and Mndsgn’s own voice multitracked into astral-travel harmony. Even in its minimalism, there’s enough beatific substance to wrap your mind around — and plenty of room for Mndsgn’s busy yet contemplative headspace to overlap with yours.