Release Date: Jul 31, 2015
Record label: Pan
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock
As can be expected from any release on Bill Kouligas' PAN imprint, Piteous Gate — the debut full-length from Berlin-based producer James Whipple — completely obliterates and re-constructs what can be expected from an electronic music release. Beats flourish with fractal geometry, cross paths with other sonic elements, only to be tugged from whatever path they were on to ultimately vanish shockingly. Electronic creaks, oblique stringed instrument structures, the slicing of a sword through fruit and other sinister ingredients ratchet up the tension here, until explosion feels imminent.
As a co-founder of Berlin club night Janus along with fellow American expatriate Lotic, James Whipple has long been scouring cyberspace for hard-edged, futuristic sounds and recontextualizing them for the dancefloor. His initial releases as M.E.S.H. combined the jagged beats of U.K. grime and garage with dubby textures and a sense of meticulous sound design common to IDM producers such as Autechre, resulting in a sound and aesthetic occasionally referred to as "post-Internet." His debut full-length, Piteous Gate, is a bold step forward, leaving behind much of the dance-informed elements of his previous work and creating an unpredictable, sometimes frightening album of dark, theatrical soundscapes.
Janus co-founder Dan DeNorch once described his collective's music as "a sound that doesn’t exist." As M.E.S.H., James Whipple is arguably that sound's leading exponent. Scythians, his debut EP for PAN, was futuristic, dark and thrilling. It's close to some of Arca's experiments with pop signifiers, but it's messier, more comfortable in its state of flux and happy to remain unresolved.
When is the future? The hopeful answer would be now, because it demands the present to be revolutionary in scope. Perhaps that’s the utopian dream of science fiction and much of cinema in general. Glowing screens could frame a technological transition of the social ego into a more revolutionary whole, a digital regime, a force that pushes individual feelings of sublime escape, total annihilation, or unbelievable spectacle into the public sphere, where the alienated are carried away on the backs of dinosaurs, where deus ex machina is a laser-storm.
M.E.S.H. — Piteous Gate (PAN)Photo by Julia BurlingameThe potential mystery surrounding M.E.S.H.’s full-length debut is minimal – taking its name from Gene Wolfe’s 1980 sci-fi novel The Shadow of the Torturer, Berlin-based James Whipple laid out the underlying themes of Piteous Gate pretty clearly between an extended Fact feature and a Self-Titled line-by-liner for each track. It is not a political statement, though much of its music draws inspiration from last year’s Ukrainian conflicts.
At the heart of experimental music is an aim toward the aspirational. High-minded tinkerers evoke future utopias for the world of organized sound, offering statements of what is and and imagining what could be. It’s a place where boundaries between the dance floor, the bedroom, and the lecture ….
Music doesn't mean any harm, does it? I am a passive receiver. I haven't done anything to anyone, I don't deserve to be treated like this. Why is this happening to me? I sit here, click on the play symbol and suddenly I am engulfed in darkness, deep within someone else's personal vision of their dystopian world translated into sound. I am stuck with them, unable to move from the spot, trapped inside the elevator with a madman as it plunges into the depths, and all the while there is this sound pummelling my head like it wants me dead.