Amanda Warner’s blog is a clearinghouse of minutiae and expertise written for synth builders and drum machine fanatics by one of their own. An entry about an amplifier she built in Minnesota begins, “I worked on the beta version of this unit. I put together all of the filament work and began the basic wiring of the amplifier…When all tubes are firing, this amp can raise the temperature in a room up to seven degrees.” Her technical verbiage may make it sound like she spends most of her free time defribulating the flux capacitor, but in person, Warner’s an exuberant, intelligent extrovert with a set of chunky white glasses and a killer wardrobe. She’s goofy-funny, too, and if she senses her tech speak is losing you, she’ll entertain you with sound effects. Explaining a program on her computer screen in MNDR co-producer Peter Wade’s studio, she grins and says, “That’s like a really dorky patch... You can build drum machines or sequencers, you can ffffttt and nrrrkk with it.”
Warner started her music career in Portland under the name Triangle, performing live techno in basements and crappy clubs. “This is when experimental music was not in the indie world at all,” she says, “so I would beg to play a show, and they’d be like, ‘You can play when the bands are setting up.’ I’d be up there like”—she mimes twerking the knobs—“Nrr!! Nrrrr!!” After hearing Warner’s music, a publishing company scout offered her a deal to write songs for mainstream pop stars, and she moved to New York in mid-2009. For someone who grew up on a South Dakota farm, potentially writing tracks for people like Jessica Simpson was a weird prospect, but her songs for someone else didn’t stay that way very long. “MNDR was always straight to the warehouse. I just wanted to do DIY stuff. But everything [Wade and I] worked on just came out great. I was like, Ehh, maybe we should just make a record.”
MNDR’s bubbly fireworks and squelchy melodies reflect Warner’s natural ability to add levity and coolness to mega-nerd shit. MNDR songs stockpile candy hooks and titanium choruses, her sugary soprano soaring over beats steeped in Chicago juke, early IDM and other bass-heavy music. And as glorious and prom-ready as her anthems might appear, underneath they are still the girl in huge glasses. “Every song is defined by every synth sound and every patch is extremely important,” says Warner. “Those little sounds are what sets records apart.”
On “Sparrows,” MNDR sings It’s the sparrow voices/ They keep singing along/ We keep singing along and you want to, her scratchy warble augmented by oh oh whoa-ohs. Her orchestral synths and beats braid into each other to make one gigantic burst, the complicated keys smoothed out by the viscous syrup of her voice. MNDR songs are battles ending in electronic-pop truces, warring ideas jostling for sonic ownership until they realize cooperation benefits all. The crux of MNDR’s magnetism lies in that synergistic teamwork, Warner’s mind functioning like an ever-firing motherboard, both right and left brains permanently switched on.
Stream: MNDR, E.P.E.