M.E.S.H. Damaged Merc [EP]

[PAN; 2016]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: club collage, post-pastiche, THX Surround Test HD
Others: Lotic, Kablam, Elysia Crampton

It’s been a year since the violent bliss of his full-length debut with PAN, but James Whipple is back. Damaged Merc, the new EP from the Janus- and SHAPE-affiliated producer, does away with a lot of the Renaissance samples and menacing science fiction of the full-length, which, as SCVSCV mentioned in his review of the release, were really only present in a gesture to “reflexively [place] himself at the center of the discourse’s high-fidelity.”

But Damaged Merc is still blistering hi-fi, with space and apocalypse bowed out in destructive, dance-driven chaos. Here, tracks more evenly lean on the producer’s “dance elements,” with harder, heavier drums rooted in grime and Jersey club. Filling the mix with less and less constrictive, ideological elements, the tracks are a more “club-friendly” return to previous 12-inch EPs like Scythians and Share the Blame. Still, I say “club friendly” in the lightest sense — maybe that’s just the difference between full-length and EP? Gone are the wisps of “confidence and arrogance,” the Gene Wolfe-checking monomania, here angled outward in million ineffable overdrives.

For all its dance-driven bliss, the release still rips. “Fallow & Mute” flirts with pocket-sized samples in pops, whips, and crackles, while a looped voice dodges in and out over bass. The seismosaur of “Kritikal Thirst” hand-triggers sound after sound, pummeling postmortem polyrhythms to a cheap, silvery powder. “Victim Lord” starts with a stutter, relentlessly rolling with sounds of cocked chambers and malefic urban decay, as a steady hand pulls back on the fader around the 2:30 mark, a loose space for something new. The producer has always borrowed from grime, but the closure of “Victim Lord” leans in toward the train, with the thoughtful, grimy scuffle of street noise and sirens gently scraping along the railing, decade-old sounds still so much on its breath.

Maybe these are our new heroes, every bit as shapeless and enigmatic as they ever were. The more we peer in, the more they escape us: our nights in sound and texture, our mornings, groggily trekking back across the broken pavement toward home. Record after record, the club flips and fills, spins and buckles and sways with so much of what’s great about Jersey and Berlin that we don’t even realize: sometimes a night just doesn’t need words. Some days, we just leave it at that.

Links: PAN

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