Markus Mehr: In
Hidden Shoal

In, Markus Mehr's follow-up to his impressive debut album Lava, is the first part of a triptych whose subsequent parts, respectively On and Off, will be issued in June of this year and January of the next. While the opening third presents two long-form settings, the middle one offers eight and the closer a single forty-nine-minute epic. For now, the opening fifty-minute salvo does just fine at hinting at what experimental directions might be undertaken in the subsequent releases. The production approach Mehr brings to In is much like the one used for Lava, which involved guitars, synths, field recordings, and sampled sounds being processed to generate a humongous mass of sound. In the latest recording, Mehr uses synths, processed guitars, distortion pedals, and computer to create the two settings.

“Komo” begins gently enough with strings playing faintly in the distance, the effect ghostly and ethereal and hardly suggestive of the coming storm. As the silken strings incessantly repeat their mournful motif, the material grows hypnotic as it swells in volume and intensity. The music's to-and-fro motion evokes a ship's gentle movement on relatively calm waters, until the piercing sting of a guitar appears halfway through, portending the imminent move into darker and more turbulent waters where the music starts breaking apart, growing more distorted in the process. A man's pontificating drone briefly surfaces before being violently wiped out by a stabbing interjection, the string loops continuing in the background throughout until they too are all but obliterated by the crushing noise hammering away at the forefront.

The second piece, “Ostinato,” immediately establishes itself as a much more raw and grime-infested piece than the other. String loops are again present (if darker and deeper in tone) but this time heard through a scrim of soot and static, and, with the addition of a trumpet, the music takes on a nocturnal, noir-like gloom that complements the sickly see-saw movements of the strings. Electronics also are more prominent, as a textural stutter can be heard skittering across the cellos and guitar fragments at various moments. “Ostinato” plays like the queasy sibling to “Komo,” an altogether more disease-ridden entity in need of medical attention. All things considered, In makes for a provocative if uneasy listen that makes one wonder how the next chapter will pick up from where this one leaves off.

April 2012