Mukqs: Chaotically Compelling Improv


Max Allison joins Lake Michigan in sending sweeping, frisky breezes down the backs of Chicagoans, helping to dub it as the Windy City. Co-founder of the experimental label Hausu Mountain with its playful yet slightly creepy logo, Max has had a productive 2020. He’s (so far) released eight noise-driven live takes under his solo moniker Mukqs this year, all of which sprinkle a more-than-generous pinch of percussion, chiptune and synths as they fearlessly follow paths that only Mukqs can foresee. Like a teenager in lockdown, jumping at the chance to get out the house, you can almost sense the itchy feet in his work. The desire to break away from the mundane routine and satisfy all those desires that the mind has conjured up has been splattered all over it.

While I won’t try to give an overview of all eight releases, I can very briefly synopsize his two most recent. Head Grid Terminal is electronic to the core. Fast-paced and chaotically compelling, it’s hard to pin point where one track ends and another begins as each goes off on a tangent, altering in rhythm and tempo from one fragment to the next. His most recent release, Water Levels, sets yet another mood, this time projecting a less frantic, more ethereal sense of coastal ambience, with ocean recordings allowing the listener to drift off beyond the reaches of the long, extensive shore into the lonely, wet horizon.

Staying clear of computer editing software and overdubs, Mukqs’ productions are of pure improvisation. They are all constructed using his tried and trusted samplers, drum machines, loops and synths, and all recorded live. This spontaneity and lack of need for post-production makes for something unique, something off the cuff, and above all something to be listened to.