Markus Mehr - Pressure [Gruenrekorder - 2022]
Markus Mehr’s newest release, Pressure, is exactly that: a sonic force pushed to extremes, both in tonality and arrangement. Dealing largely with the environmentally unfriendly phenomenon of concrete construction, Mehr’s electronic minimalism grinds each sound source and field recording down to a granular level, as acoustic metaphor for the sand that makes up a large percentage of concrete materials. Pressure perambulates through different existing architectural structures, and reflects the brutalism of their style and acts, as they stand-in for the rapidly dwindling availability of sand in the world today.
In tracks like “Dome,” we are plunged deep into the forging and mixing processes themselves, rather than walking through at our own bipedal pace. The formal correspondences between the granular and frigid alienation of concrete and the source material move in accordance with the given title of each composition. “Dome” is round and circular, like a spinning disc, or the wind swept through the interior of a giant bell. The effect is jarring (rightly so, I guess), where each layer or sonic material is subject to banging and hammering, in unpredictable staccatos written across each track. On “YouMakeTheBestOfWhatIsAround,” each strand is amplified from the microtones and acoustic phenomena that we are otherwise incapable of hearing. By the time we arrive at the penultimate “Shake,” rhythm begins to hold court, with an industrial intelligence that beats its listeners into submission. Finally, “FragilAndUrgent” closes the album in a droney, organ-like procession, beseeching us to get up from the pews and do something, for heaven’s sake.
Mehr has been busy with installations, film, and other projects in recent years, and it is clear that his brand of finely-tuned electronics has benefited from this wide range of venues. Space, that is the space around and within the music, opens and closes with the timing of a well-oiled machine. It is the work of an incredible sonic labourer, who divorces electronics from the burden of representation, as was the wish of Musique concrète and its founder, Pierre Schaeffer. And like a good building, it’s more of a place than any arbitrary space: specific, and that means, of course, concrete. Colin Lang