Record review: Mesmer – Mesmer [Stitch]

avatars-000057675694-a1lbu3-t500x500The self-titled track opening track, (Mesmer, by Mesmer, on the album Mesmer – evoking some Black Sabbath voodoo mebbe? Or are they just trying to mesmerise us…) is a carefully crafted creation, with an unfolding structure that propels you through imagined landscapes.

They play with the more forward-thinking (less strictly ‘classical’ sounding) minimalism of Terry Riley, Steve Reich and North Star era Philip Glass, a style they combine with elements of post-rock, electronica and jazz.

The saxophone could be accused of being a bit clichéd here, almost a smooth jazz/80s sit-com-theme pastiche, if it wasn’t for the overlay of high pitched effects that give the slick sound some unexpected Zappa-ish humour – not to mention the fact it’s played so well.

‘No Such Thing’ has more of a mysterious feel; it also follows a theme-and-variation structure, contrasting with the progressive wanderings of the first track.

They throw some more electronics into the mix with this one, with what sounds like a typewriter or some other mechanical machine rhythmically working away.

‘Perfunctory Smile’ brings to mind childhood memories of the odd scat-singing soundscapes played in the Rugrats (which is meant as a compliment—the music for the Rugrats was written by Devo singer and prolific soundtrack writer Mark Mothersbaugh).

This track is a combination of the approaches found in the previous songs, it has the unfolding structure of ‘Mesmer’, and the electronics and baroque elaborations of ‘No Such Thing’

The experimental music scene, at least here in Glasgow, has been largely dominated by the noisy, atonal, free-form and primordial—see past events put on by Cry Parrot, Winning Sperm Party and Croc vs Croc for evidence.

Mesmer represent something totally different, maybe in part due to their Edinburgh surroundings, far away from us noisy neighbours on the west coast.

Their music is meticulously made, melodic, and knowingly nodding to the ideas and sounds of the classical and jazz worlds.

In a weird way this respect for tradition makes them more radical than their peers, at least in the current climate.

At the same time, their clear sense of fun and experimentalism keeps them well away from high-brow fustiness.

Words: Calum Calderwood

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