- James Whipple's music is much like the flyers for the Berlin-based Janus night at which he was a resident: surrealist, synthetic, often willfully inscrutable. It's an approach that seems well suited to the state of dance music right now. The cyclical "hate->hype->copy" slogan on the cover of fellow Janus resident Lotic's Damsel In Distress mixtape gets to the heart of it. As with his running mate, M.E.S.H. draws on a range of contemporary styles—chart hip-hop, grime, ballroom, Jersey house—in order to address the accelerated cycles of taste and ouroboros-like flows of influence and appropriation that shape club music culture in the internet age.
With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that Whipple's debut EP for PAN references a widely hated musical genre, in the form of hardstyle. Whipple has said that "Imperial Sewers" takes influence from the genre's "super melodic" side, though the end result is an ethereal hip-hop number more akin to Fatima Al Qadiri. "Captivated" goes one further by sampling a hardstyle track; Whipple treats the hammy, Hollywood trailer-style monologue with the utmost sincerity. Elsewhere, "Scythians" is the most musically daring of the lot, its scrambled rhythms and mournful synthetic melodies making for a sort of grime-informed version of Autechre's "Gantz Graf." The loping Jersey kick drums of "Interdictor," meanwhile, prove that Whipple can take a more measured approach to groove when he wants to.
The collagist aspect of M.E.S.H.'s music might lead us to expect bold gestures and high-speed collisions, but the defining aspect of these tracks is often their subtlety. At points this is the source of their power, but sometimes it can make their charms difficult to excavate. The effect—particularly in closer "Glassel Finisher"—is not unlike the deep-soak of Berlin dub techno. While M.E.S.H. and co have said that they feel like outsiders to their home city's techno and house "mainstream," their influence is certainly on the up.
B2 Imperial Sewers
B3 Glassel Finisher