Mitosis is an album that swings from completely submerging the listener within its own narrative realms to the rhythms synching the mind with any task at hand like an internal soundtrack of one’s own making so seamless it almost isn’t there because it feels like it always is.
The ability of Mitosis to detach the listener from itself while simultaneously never leaving their side is all the more incredible when knowing the meaning of the album’s name and song titles (something I didn’t on first listen).
To quote from the album’s bandcamp page:
‘MITOSIS (/mai’toUsis/) is a part of a cell cycle in white replicated chromosomes are separated into two nuclei. Cell division by mitosis gives rise to genetically identical cells in which the total number of chromosomes are maintained.’
An album this easy to get lost in isn’t the easiest to form a narration about, for while the cosmos is ridden upon one second, the next it can be a very real memory of being on a snowy mountain top with a bright sun and clear blue sky dominating the mind’s eye.
So when making a concerted effort not to be distracted by the very thing I was trying to concentrate on, it came as a surprise to find something unsettling lurking within what had to then been nothing but a thrill trip.
This aspect can be taken as metaphor for the way ominous truths so often remain hidden behind things thought good in this world. But it’s not an overriding aspect by any means—which equally, is of course why the metaphor work so well—and the greater path it took me down turned out to be a lot more . . . furrier.
A long thin dragon with likewise whiskers sweeps majestically through snow covered mountains, a look of wise contentment on its face.
It swoops down and flies level over a flat landscape, becoming more streamlined and faster the further it goes; ahead are more mountains and more so a snow storm almost thick as a wall that stops them being seen – the dragon pierces and enters the blizzard like an arrow straight to the heart.
From a cave high up on a mountainside a wizard watches the snow show through the slice of vision the harbourage allows. The scene changes one second to the next in the most drastic and detailed ways, wind driving snowflakes every manner of direction, each and every gust gathering up a whole new bunch of unique flakes; while at the same time it could equally be said to never deviate at all from the single salient constant of it always being a crazy mass of swirling snow.
He can sense it before he can see it; and then through the heavy haze comes the dragon’s nose, whiskers, eyes and then ears; emerging as though created from the snow. It lands at the cave entrance and has a good shake, then walks with the wizard deep into it, further and further still until reaching a contrasting sight in the dull rocky confines; that of a shiny metal elevator door.
The doors open, they enter. The elevator starts to shake, its lights flicker, while the noise it makes sounds akin to an aeroplane flying high overhead.
The elevator starts turning slowly while also being in decent; it comes to rest with a great ache of metal, the doors open and both wizard and dragon are revealed wearing matching Edwardian style suits of the highest quality; their beards and whiskers likewise fashioned to a similar jib.
The wizard tips his hat and touches the brim. A flash of light and puff of smoke has them step out of a train carriage onto the platform of London’s Seven Sisters Overground Station, for the city is so big as to need one of those in its north too.
The dragon looks up and down the platform, an expression of ever greater disappointment shaping its face.
It looks at the wizard, who shrugs with palms turned upwards, and says, “I told you it was just the name of a place not a statement of fact. God knows why you think any would be interested in you, anyway.”
WHITE HILLS: Dave White & Ego Sensation
The dragon’s eyes narrow, wisps of smoke escape its extensive nostrils.
The wizard quickly adds, “But we’re here now, so might as well try make the most of it.”
They head to the Tube, down into the bowels of the Underground they go; the dragon always lagging slightly behind in petulant fashion.
On the train the dragon insists they sit across the aisle from each other. That way the wizard will be sure to see the sulky look on its face.
When the wizard stands to leave at the stop he thinks they’re getting off at, the dragon remains seated. “I’m not ready to make the most of it,” it says with a big pout.
The wizard sighs and sits back down; he knows there’s nothing worse in the world than a disappointed dragon. “I did try to tell you.”
“Well,” says the dragon. “Clearly not hard enough.”
Off they go through the soot-coated tunnels and old Victorian stations of London’s Underground, the rhythmic trundle and echo of carriages lulling the wizard hypnotically; through ever-drooping eyelids the wizard sees the dragon staring at him resentfully from the other seat.
And then—in a moment of magic itself—just like that, the dragon jumps up and dashes for the closing doors, slipping through just as they meet. It turns back to the carriage and gives the wizard two clawed Vs of ‘up yours’ while sticking its tongue out.
It’s about to say ‘ner-ner ner-ner-ner’ even though it won’t be heard, when the startled wizard fully wakes up, realises what’s going down, waves his hand in the air, blows some dust from his palm, mutters something inaudible, and suddenly appears on the platform next to the dragon.
“Fuck,” says the dragon. “I forgot you could do that.”
Before waiting for a reply, the dragon turns and starts to move quickly towards the exit, taking the stairs and then the escalators without touching a step of either in its quest to reach the surface.
It flies out in a blur, an unseen wind to any passer-by, whooshes in a circle, decides on a direction and heads it before stopping on a penny by a building and entering.
Below ground the wizard waits for the elevator option, cursing both his lack of fitness and magical inability to move himself through things any direction other than sideways.
Back above it, the dragon says, “Have we met? I’m sure I’ve seen that look before . . . Oh, yes! – it was in a joke I heard: a priest, an imam and a rabbit walk into a bar. The bartender looks at the rabbit and pulls exactly the same face you are now, and the rabbit says, ‘Hey, don’t look at me like that – I’m just a typo!’.”
“Yeah,” says the barman. “But you’re not a rabbit or a typo, are ya; you’re a dragon, n’ we don’t serve dragons in ‘ere, what with it being an old English boozer n’ Saint George n’ all that. Know what I mean; cos the Lord Mayor’s daughter’s got a jellied eel barrel n’ a place in the Tower for anyone what don’t!
“Why’d you think them’s plastered everywhere for,” the barman adds, jabbing a finger towards one of the many ‘No Smoking’ signs on the wall. “Keep the bleedin’ dragons out, that’s what!”
“Sir,” says the dragon. “You are mistaken. I’m not a dragon. My only intention here is to enquire as to the nature of the IPAs you have on tap.”
“Oh yeah?” says the barman. “Then why you so hairy?”
“I could ask the same of you! I’m a cat, sir – a cat; and I’ll prove it to you here and now!” The dragon steps back from the bar, takes a few steps one direction then the other while hunched with its front paws pulled into its chest.
“You look like a baby t-rex.”
“Exactly,” says the dragon. “I can’t walk any other way when on my hind legs.”
The barman tells the dragon what IPAs they have on tap; the dragon orders two pints of the same beer. The barman pulls the drinks, places them on the bar, starts to say the price, but the dragon lifts a paw in signal of wait, while raising one of the pints in the other and drinking thirstily from it.
Depending on how you look at it, a half full or half empty glass is retuned to the bar, while the silencing paw remains in the air. With a lick of the lips, the dragon says, “Just one moment, if you please. Unfortunately I have a bit of a slow cash flow.”
“Now look ‘ere, you,” says the barman, lifting a baseball bat into view.
The dragon smiles as the door behind opens and the wizard walks into the pub. “Ah! Here it comes now.”
The wizard reaches the bar and for his wallet simultaneously. “No doubt you’ve regaled him with the joke already.”
“A hundred times over,” the dragon replies, an amused curl of smoke escaping from a nostril to almost give the cat story away. “What on Earth took you so long?”
“It’s not even your joke,” says the wizard, holding a hand out in anticipation of change. “If you must know, just as the lift doors were closing two flustered pregnant women pushing already child-laden prams came towards them asking me to hold the lift. I could hardly say no. And then once they were inside it meant I got squashed to the back and then had to wait for them to get out again before I could. Quite honestly intensely frustrating even without the necessity of trying to beat you in a beer buying race.”
“Couldn’t you have used some magic to put them back down the corridor just far enough it would’ve been completely unreasonable to have asked for the lift to be held?”
“Fuck!” says the wizard. “I forgot I could do that.”
And so on the day goes; as soon as one finishes a beer, they start the race for who gets them in at the next pub while the other still has to finish that in their glass. It’s a race that might appear always easily won by the dragon, except here on level ground the wizard can also use magic to move sideways.
In every pub the dragon tells the same joke in response to its appearance, despite it not being his [or mine] before then claiming feline lineage. Two pints of IPA are downed; as things progress there is dancing in some—booty shaking up-close and personal; and sometimes even with people never previously known—in others shots get thrown into the mix, while elsewhere some outrageous singing raises its ugly head.
Then a pub is entered in which a group of lads sit with a couple of English Bull Terrier dogs. All is well until the drunk dragon thinks nothing of the dogs’ presence when claiming to be a cat with the customary aplomb.
The ears on the dogs prick, their wet noses sniff the air suspiciously . Despite this, the creature at the bars maintains the story of its cat persona, becoming, if anything, a bit aggressive about it to boot. The dogs start growling, pulling on leads.
Amused by their fervour, the dragon gives both a quick sharp bop on the nose that comes at the pair quicker than greased lighting. It’s with far more shock than pain that both yelp and retreat to under the table.
This turn of events is of great insult to the pride and integrity of the lads. There is shouting and threats, to which the now extremely inebriated dragon simply scoffs. Provoked, they progress to pushing and shoving. The dragon claps with delight! Then there’s a punch thrown and from there a great big fight.
A dust ball of chaos commences to consume the whole bar and everyone in it. Except for the wizard who somehow—magic, probably—always manages to be on the periphery watching on. Drinks are knocked over to give the appearance of rich golden waterfalls flowing from the bar and every table not yet upturned in the melee. Glass breaks, stools are lofted high and thrown; some with people still seated on them. Pictures on the walls are knocked to all manner of askew angles, some even completely upside down.
The fight rages and whirls as a sentient tornado on a singular mission to destroy as much of the pub as it can. People fall by the wayside, slumping onto the remnants of furniture or simply going straight for the floor. Just the dragon and one of the dog owners remain, but only for a hot second and an uppercut that leaves the latter caught on and hanging from a light fighting.
The dragon stands alone in the middle of the floor, it looks around to make sure no one else remains standing, then collapses in a big heap of itself, tail sticking out from between its legs.
The watching-on wizard pulls a flute from the inside of his still intact and spotless suit, starts to play a mournful tune.
It almost matches the look on the victorious dragon’s face perfectly, for to receive the accolade it had many adversaries to vanquish and so, truth be told, has come out of it all the worst off. Its whiskers are crooked and squashed; the fine Edwardian suit it was adorned in ripped to nothing but shreds; it’s covered in scratches and bruises, lumps ad bumps; both eyes puffy and lips looking like an overdose of Botox.
On hearing the tune, the dragon casts its eyes upon the wizard and sighs deeply; in the process reaching the necessary depth of melancholy to match the wistful music perfectly. It looks down at itself forlornly, feeling very, very sorry for itself.
“Right,” says the wizard, having taken a moment to carefully replace the flute in a pocket. “Time to get you to a vet!”
“A vet?!” the dragon snorts in disgust.
“You’ve got to go somewhere; look at the bloody state of you,” says the wizard. “And you will keep insisting on telling people you’re a cat, so why change the story now?” The wizard raises his right hand, snaps two of the fingers on the end of it; in the left at his side appears the handle of a cat carrier. “C’mon, hop in.”
“How dare you: I’m not getting in that!” Protests the dragon from its heap on the floor; its sat-on tail swishing between legs with slow exaggerated movements that always end by hitting the ground with a thud.
“Well it’s this or a dog one,” says the wizard. “They don’t do them for dragons.”
“I bet you didn’t even ask!” challenges the dragon.
The wizard raises his free hand to again snap fingers. He does so three times, but nothing about his holding a cat carrier changes. “See. Now, in!”
The dragon finds a second wind with far more gusto than the first, a tumultuous struggle ensues; it growls and snorts with the guttural ferocity anticipated of its kind; while also making noises and behaving in a way—extreme adversity to cat carriers, as example—far more reminiscent of a cat that cause the wizard to recall the time he found all the cat-nip under the dragon’s bed, only for it to claim to be holding for someone else.
The two tear around the pub in a frenzy: the bar is gone over, tables under, walls up to send pictures once again spinning, and the ceiling even across; so much so that by the time they exit to take the chase out onto the street, everything is back precisely in its rightful place again, except, that is, for the spilled drinks and broken glass of course.
The chase now enters any building along the way, trees on the pavement are careened round, there is no damage in their path to be undone and so once again the waves in their wake are ones of disorder, disarray and discombobulation; the last not actually a real word and thus demonstrating the immense reach of their trail of mayhem far better than any real word ever could.
The dragon dives into a supermarket, heads for the cereal aisle intending to hide there amongst products featuring images not dissimilar to its own. It finds the boxes of ‘Sugar Puff the Magic Dragon Edwardian-style Breakfast Rusks’ and starts to climb in amongst them.
The wizard doesn’t follow the dragon down the cereal aisle or even bother to look where it goes; instead he heads directly towards kitchen supplies, the place where things like washing-up liquid or dish-soap are kept depending on which side of the Pond one is looking on.
He finds a pair of yellow washing-up gloves with no idea what they might be called elsewhere, opens the packet and pulls them on, listening all the while for the sure-to-come screams.
He follows them to the cereal aisle, where—in another move suggesting it actually a cat pretending to be a dragon pretending to be a cat; for real dragons are renowned for their hiding in caves skills—the dragon has only gone so far as to get its head and body in amongst the boxes, so leaving its behind hanging over the edge of the shelf, tail in the air and bum on show for all to see.
“One of the Puff Dragon Rusks’ toys has exploded!” an excited shopper screams, and can hardly be blamed for doing so given the ripped Edwardian clothes do indeed give proceedings a Hulk-esque appearance.
“Leave this to me,” says the wizard, dropping the cat carrier to clamp a rubber-gloved hand on either side of the dragon’s rear end. “Don’t think you’re slipping through my fingers this time!” the wizard shouts into the boxes, before pulling the squirming dragon out, shoving it into the carrier and locking the door.
At that very moment the store manager marches into the aisle with a gaggle of burly security personnel. “And just who the Hell is going to pay for all this?’ he asks, hands firmly on hips (his hips).
“You,” says the wizard. “Each store pays for its own mascot appearance; three grand, please. Or are you another who ‘didn’t get the memo’ and needs the Feds calling?”
“We’d have no change left!” the manager squeals. “Will you take a cheque?”
“No,” says the wizard. “But I will take your goons filling me some bags with very expensive alcohols, decadent chocolates and fine cheeses.” The wizard raises a hand and clicks two of the fingers attached to its end.
The goons—possibly very nice outside of work—turn and go about the wizard’s bidding, soon returning with heavily laden bags, though not so much that they might split. The wizard leaves the store struggling with them alone, never mind the cat carrier with a dragon in too.
“This is ridiculous,” says the dragon. “Let me out. I can help.”
“Help eat and drink everything?” the wizard replies, taking a sudden turn back into the Underground station. “No thanks.”
“Hey!” says the dragon, turning in the carrier, trying to look through the small gaps. “Where are we going? You said we were going to the vets!”
“You gotta be kidding. Do you know how much they cost? I got you in the carrier to get you home without any more mayhem.”
On the train, the wizard makes a point of placing the carrier on the opposite seat of the carriage to ensure the dragon sees his enjoying of the various goodies in the bags.
The dragon bristles, seethes, hisses and growls from it confines for the rest of the way home. In amongst it all there are plenty of anguished meows.
* * *
WHITE HILLS is Dave W. & Ego Sensation. All tracks recorded and mixed sometime in the past with the aid of Pierre Auntour at 60b Studios in NYC.
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Thanks for reading 🙂
N. P. Ryan
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