Markus Mehr ~ Pressure

It’s been five years since we’ve seen an album in a concrete box, the last being MYMK’s The Memory Fog.  But while that one had to be broken to access the tape within, this one can be opened to find the USB stick.  Pressure also joins the ranks of famous recordings using that name, the most notorious being Queen & David Bowie’s “Under Pressure,” Billy Joel’s “Pressure” and Jessica Darrow’s “Surface Pressure.”  Yet while those recordings deal with the effects of pressure on the human brain, Markus Mehr has something more literal in mind: the pressure on natural resources used to create cement, including the over-mining of sand.  The process uses an inordinate amount of water and energy, while the material takes a toll on the soil and can produce cracks and fissures.

While the specific sources are disguised in the mix like sand in cement, the description includes “concrete domes, construction sites and earth movements, micro-sound recordings of hardening concrete and seismographic recordings of collapsing buildings.”  Humans break and build, create and destroy, all at once.  “Agnes” launches into rhythmic machinery and construction noises that morph into music.  A saw becomes a violin; a hammer becomes a drumstick.  Despite the purpose of the recording, this process sounds alluring, even elegant.  This same nod to beauty was found in the original sound installation, eighteen concrete boxes mounted on walls, immersing the viewer-listener in visceral walls of sound.

What to make of the spectral, theremin-esque choir that surfaces in the middle of “Dome”?  Their timbre is momentarily masked by digging and clanking, harsh noise and insistent electronics, only to return in the end when the workers have gone home.  Is this the spirit of the building, the group memory of sand?  Mehr implies that the soul is more likely to be found in the original than in the composite.  And while the sound of sand is here, it is obscured as well, lost in a well of abrasion.

The DNA of Mehr’s work in drone and electronics can be found in the title track, which approaches each of these genres in turn before returning to the metallic-minded field recordings.  The turning of textures creates a constant fascination; will he tumble into pop?  The answer is no, but the artist does reference a song by The Police in the title “You Make The Best Of What’s Still Around.”  Those familiar with the song are already reciting the preceding line: When the world is running down …  The statement begs the question, “does the world have to run down?”  We may love our concrete, but its production causes six percent of global CO2 emissions.  In the closing track, Mehr calls the issue “fragile and urgent.”  The world beneath our feet may not be as stable as we believe it to be.  (Richard Allen)

Available here

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