Last year’s Scythians EP established Jamie Whipple (M.E.S.H.) as a force to be reckoned with. Berliners were already aware, thanks to the creative musical nights of the Janus collective; but with Piteous Gate, M.E.S.H.’s influence is now primed to go global.
While most of the tracks on Scythians were partially aimed at the dance floor, the title track was not. A different beast, “Scythians” spawned a number of remixes, but in its original form, the track stuttered about with the sounds of drains and hammers, a decidedly eclectic affair. Piteous Gate launches from this base, avoiding any thought of the 4/4 beat. The most obvious link is the repeated clank, found in both “Thorium” and “Epithet”, still a beat, but only in the technical sense. There’s little doubt that M.E.S.H. appreciates a steady club pulse; he simply finds it dull, and uses it sparingly. He’s more likely to veer into side rhythms and time signature shifts, investigating every available angle. In this sense, he has more in common with early industrial innovators than with modern techno artists, marching to the beat of a different (literal) drum. On Piteous Gate, the detour is the destination.
The title track serves as an overture, an ominous drone and hum met with the sound of aircrafts taking off and landing. An unintelligible voice shouts over an orchestral-tinged soundscape. The stage is set. “Optimate” starts with the sound of an electronic whip, lashing the beeps and bass into shape. Crashes abound; this is not a gentle LP. The first beats appear two minutes in, then retreat; it’s dangerous out there. But once these beats see that the keyboard is brave enough to venture out, they follow.
M.E.S.H.’s music has been described as “futuristic”, and one can hear why. “Thorium” has the sheen of a spaceship, rife with sci-fi synths and factory clanks, clean and dirty all at once. By making music that is not directed at either the dance floor or the film studio, M.E.S.H. frees himself to cannibalize elements of both, creating a new hybrid. Only a broken robot would dare dance to this, albeit haltingly, with gears and sprockets falling loose. But as harsh as the artist’s sound can be, it can also be warm: an acoustic guitar infiltrates “The Black Pill”, providing an option that Neo never had.
The set contains only one clear word: “Epithet”. Spoken in the center of the track of the same name, the word demands attention. The album itself acts an epithet hurled at a stagnant industry. This is where music could have been by now, M.E.S.H. seems to be saying. Catch up. (Richard Allen)
Release date: 17 July