Mender – Resonant Tense
Upon first listening, it’s difficult not to notice the heart attached to this EP’s sleeve. Indeed, the love letters and homages to Herbaliser, Massive Attack, Portishead and even Minotaur Shock are no subtle affairs, no brown paper envelopes with secret codes of forbidden romance.
More likely are you to find glitter and perfumed paper, foregoing any concerns of embarrassment and overkill. This is not to suggest Midlands-born, Ash West-Mullen, AKA Mender should be embarrassed for producing a set of tracks which clearly owe so much to other artists, there is no reason to be embarrassed when these homages are produced so well, but homages is at times the most of what they are, hindering the EP’s overall sound.
EP opener, ‘Retrotoric’ is a funky, beatnik, jazz fuelled slice of trip hop. My only issue being that is feels like it was plucked out of 1999 and, come a weekday afternoon, would not be out of place in *any* independent, Indie bar you could walk in to in Camden. The mix of synthesizer squelches, acoustic guitar licks and percussion are enjoyable enough affair, but this sort of track has been done to death a hundred times before, and is essentially a decade too late for the crowd it appears to be aiming at.
There are instances of clever invention and innovation; trip-Hop and low-fi electronica is intertwined deftly and surprisingly well with dirty, proto-dupstep bass to produce at times eerily dark structures, ‘Dead Man Samba’ showcasing such mixing of genres the most efficiently.
‘Killer Combination’ is another mixture of genres; lightweight industrial style percussion (I know, ‘lightweight’ industrial doesn’t seem possible, but essentially that is what it is) is layered with Zero 7 melodies and at one occasion towards the beginning of the track, the sound of a dot matrix printer being asked to explain the meaning of life and subsequently crying itself to death, is inserted in to the track for no apparent reason, and for no repeat performance. Unfortunately, there is an emptiness to the sound, like it is being performed in a hollow, defunct warehouse, which for me leaves the track and myself, wanting more.
Then there is the EP’s leftfield closing track, ‘Resonant International’, which appears to have taken the sound of light rain and a small stream and produced a concept piece. This sound develops in to what can only be described as the noises fairies would make when having sex, if they were extremely delicate and robotic! It is a percussion led affair in nearly every aspect, a tidal wave of glitchtronica. A mixture of squeaks, clicks, plonks and a vague, glass like ‘melody’ form the body of the track, yet it never seems to develop into something that could affect you emotionally and musically. As stated it opens delicately enough, and begins to build promisingly, but fails to deliver any sense of resolution, leaving you with the distinct sensation of an anti-climax, something I imagine the robotic fairies doing the sexings in the track wouldn’t be too pleased about either!
Overall, this is an EP with promising ideas and at times it’s mixing of genres and sounds is economically and skilfully employed. Sadly though, these are sounds which in all honesty, are out of time. A decade to fifteen years earlier such meshing of glitchtronica, trip-hop and electronica would be welcomed with open arms and praised. As it is, Mender’s EP is a perfectly competent set of tracks, but is by no means treading new ground, or even putting a bigger footprint on the ground that’s already been trod upon.
Words: Fuzz Caminski