Messell ~ Ligesom Rigtige Mennesker

As we review the year’s first releases, it’s fun to meet one of the first new labels as well.  And so we welcome Copenhagen’s Textur, whose initial release is a perfect reflection of its name.  To complete the trifecta, Ligesom Rigtige Mennesker is also the debut album for Messell. Congratulations all around!

The album includes samples from classical works, synthesizers and cell phone recordings, although the integration level is so high that one can picture a band.  The timbres are in a constant state of shift, to the extent that opening track “Hinanden” would fit on a Subtext album.  The bass is low, the melodies stutter, and soft, whispered conversations occupy the background.  Yet Messell never stays in one place for long.  Fast-forward the cassette a bit, and one may land on an ambient passage or a stretch of modern composition.

The mingling of timbres reflects the topic.  The title’s rough translation is Just Like Real Humans, and the program is billed as “a series of reflections on the constant comparison of oneself to others.”  The recording process uses the same materials that shame or encourage others: cell phones, sampling and by extension, social media.  Are Facebook lives fiction or non-fiction?  Is everybody else really having more fun than us?  Are the images we admire natural or photoshopped?

Only on “Næsten” (“Almost”) does a recognizable sample break through, sounding like “Here Comes the Rain Again,” but even this may be an illusion ~ an almost.  “Forventningen Om” (“The Expectation About”) takes things a step further, exploring the gap between perception and reality.  A calm series of bass notes contributes a sense of calm while synths swirl chaotically until the closing, which seems to enter a stage of acceptance.  We will never be as beautiful as super-models or as rich as Bill Gates, but beauty and celebrity seldom produce the happiness we imagine.  The mournful tone of “Inden Længe,” followed by the courtly classicism of the title track, operate as an elegy for an unattainable ideal.  The realization that our comparisons are flawed frees us to be ourselves, a healthy realignment.

When Ligesom Rigtige Mennesker looks in a mirror, it doesn’t say, “I wish I were like other albums.”  Nor does it spend its day moping over the fact that its orchestra is sampled rather than live.  The tape isn’t sad that it doesn’t get to be in our Electronic section, bemoaning the fact that it lacks a clear peer group such as Athlete or Geek.  It’s content to be texture, gracefully untethered, like a horse freed from its stall.  The album is many things at once, just like real humans.  The cover image flips society’s script, the cut-out figure gazing at real people, wistfully wishing for the opportunity to live.  (Richard Allen)

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