Markus Mehr: Lava
Hidden Shoal

Created using synths, processed guitars, distortion pedals, and computer (supplemented by additional sound sources including electric shavers, ventilators, electric tooth brushes, and field recordings), Markus Mehr's Lava presents nine dark ambient set-pieces that should strongly appeal to fans of Simon Scott's Navigare, The Sight Below's It All Falls Apart, Tim Hecker's Mirages, and Fennesz's Venice. Like Fennesz, the Augsburg, South Germany-based Mehr produces electronic-based music of majestic melodic design whose beauty is tempered by a sound approach intent on corrosion. Smears of guitar distortion spread like viruses throughout Mehr's slow-motion meditations in a wide-ranging recording whose forty-six minutes cover multiple bases.

Opener “Agenda” unfolds ever so patiently, as lulling synth patterns gradually swell into a thick, pulsating mass in a manner that calls to mind the kosmische musik of Klaus Schulze and early Tangerine Dream. In “Softwar” and “Ohm,” lacerated shards of fractured noise voice themes of decayed grandeur, while waves of intense emotion crest throughout “Full Moon.” “Cousteau” in particular evokes Fennesz when guitar shards, rippling to a state of near-combustion, carve symphonic pathways through the track's dense foliage. “Up-sturz” offers a more heavily experimental exercise in sputtering electronic exploration, and “Datenwolke” three minutes of woozy industrial-ambient soundscaping. It's all expertly done, somewhat preternaturally so given that Lava is the first full-length release from Mehr. That a summer 2010 European tour purportedly included stops in both churches and “large disused gas tanks” isn't as odd as it might first appear, given the hymnal and noise dimensions that are both key aspects of Mehr's style. The release's appeal is enhanced by presentation, in this case a large-format amaray case (the kind that typically houses DVDs) whose size is consistent with Lava's epic scale.

October 2010