(Home Normal, 2016)
To wander into a Mere release is not a decision that one makes lightly. A record by the improvisational trio, featuring Gareth Davis on bass clarinet, Thomas Cruijsen on guitar, and Leo Fabriek on drums, is filled with the musical equivalent of scaffolding and equipment that one finds on a construction site, where things like exposed beams and massive coils of wire and drills and cement belie the finished product but do not constitute it. To hear the three members play is to be treated to experimentation with the very building blocks of what it means to be this type of trio. Once you start hanging the drywall, probably over Fabriek’s kit first, you start to lose the sense of discovery of how stuff actually works around here. So Mere doesn’t do that – there’s no drywall, no paint, no insulation, and you’d be a fool to approach a record of theirs without a hardhat. I’m wearing one this very instant, at my desk. I’m getting some strange looks.
And then I’m like, well of course this is on Thrill Jockey, it has Thrill Jockey written all over it. The stabs to classify this as “post rock” in some way against the Thrill Jockey aesthetic is too easy to avoid. But the wrongness of that assumption is “100%” and “dead,” because this is cooked up by the groovy folks over at Home Normal, the Tokyo(ish)-based label that’s been around since 2009 but I’ve somehow just gotten around to checking out recently. (Who do I blame for that? Gotta blame somebody. Can’t be my own fault.) They’ve gotten their paws on some solid gold output here. Solid bloody gold.
Mere ebbs and flows, a metaphor that I realize mimics water rather than construction equipment, but hey, it’s my prerogative to mix up these bad boys if I want to. The crests and troughs (water!) organically appear as the musicians pull and push against each other, the tension inherent in the majestic builds and the locked oneness of purpose obvious in the stretched intervals. The players’ technical precision (construction!) is at once clearly at work, the façade stripped to the mechanism, and seamlessly integrated into a greater whole. The result is overtly cinematic at points, subtly cinematic at others, and almost always fairly cinematic in some way. Mere conjures vast expanses and also conflict with ease, and it is a great wonder why I haven’t heard their music on film soundtracks. (One reason would be that this is my introduction to the group, but let’s not get pushy about it.) They are kindred spirits to artists like Ennio Morricone and Warren Ellis and Johnny Greenwood, as well as others like Sam Shalabi. They belong in the view, as it were, of an audience. They don’t need to be experienced with visual accompaniment, but it would sure be cool if they were experienced that way.
II and III follow in the footsteps of their 2012 self-titled album on Gizeh Records. Each track title is a roman numeral, and II begins at “IV” while III begins at “VII.” I strongly urge you to experience the full trilogy, and I hope for a continuation of this project, kind of like I hope for an unending continuation of Star Wars (except of course for the eminently skippable I through III situation there). Maybe the boys of Mere could throw on a couple hardhats themselves and lend a hand in building the next Death Star or Death Star–related Imperial superweapon. Or they could open a club where they’d serve as the overly dour alien cantina band.
What number metaphor was that? I’ve lost count.