Gareth Davis – Bass Clarinet
Leo Fabriek – Drums
Thomas Cruijsen – Guitar
CD on Home Normal, released 25 November 2016
1 – IV
2 – V
3 – VI
In 2012, Mere very kindly asked me to master their debut album Mere for Gizeh Records. Made up of Gareth Davis (bass clarinet), Thomas Cruijsen (guitar), and Leo Fabriek (drums), I was given due notice that the album was a live recording of improvised free jazz, so basically pretty wild in every facet. As a long term friend and collaborator, I thought I knew what to expect from a Gareth Davis related project: namely, the unexpected! Unlike the usual process of checking files on computers before getting involved with the mastering process, projects with Gareth are always slapped onto reels right away as we both know where the other is at regarding outboard gear for collaboration or mastering. The only snag was that during transfer, on a strangely muggy day for the season in Tokyo, a tube blew on my favourite reel-to-reel, and soon after, when the electricity decided to cut in and out in our old house, my lovely monitors decided to go as well. The music was run through a very old 50’s reel running through a handmade amp, and being monitored on my faithful old NS10’s instead. I put the work on loop and decided to spend my day reading ‘Heart of Darkness’ by Joseph Conrad whilst listening to the Mere album through my rather limited new set-up on loop. Some six hours later, my wife came home to find me in a bit of a stupor to say the least. I hadn’t moved from the spot all day, and hadn’t even noticed she had come in to say she was home. All she did say is that maybe the ‘music was a bit loud’ as it could be heard all the way down our street (we have very nice neighbours!).
The simple truth is that I had completely lost sense of time and my surroundings as I had become so involved with the reading and accompanying music. The wild earthiness of the music was a perfect fit to a story of journey within; to the unknown; to a place of obsession and absolute directness of spirit. It was this essence which has always stayed with me whenever I have listened time and again to this brilliant album. As the first of a three part live recording, I was desperate to hear the full works in all their glory. Gareth, Thomas, and Leo duly sent over the two remaining parts (Mere II and III), and alongside cover art by Frederic D. Oberland, they complete the Mere trilogy to beautiful effect.
To say this is a privilege for Home Normal to be releasing them would be a huge understatement. It has taken almost three years to get to the point of release now, and finishing the journey, to whatever end that may be, is the essence which drives us on. Beyond the intricacies of the interplay, and subtleties of incredible musicianship, the albums (three) as a whole represent a unique long-form experience which is both deep within and far beyond our selves; the perfect antithesis to the diagnosis of modern-day apathy.
– Ian Hawgood –
To wander into a Mere release is not a decision that one makes lightly. A record by the improvisational trio, featuring Gareth Davis on bass clarinet, Thomas Cruijsen on guitar, and Leo Fabriek on drums, is filled with the musical equivalent of scaffolding and equipment that one finds on a construction site, where things like exposed beams and massive coils of wire and drills and cement belie the finished product but do not constitute it. To hear the three members play is to be treated to experimentation with the very building blocks of what it means to be this type of trio. Once you start hanging the drywall, probably over Fabriek’s kit first, you start to lose the sense of discovery of how stuff actually works around here. So Mere doesn’t do that – there’s no drywall, no paint, no insulation, and you’d be a fool to approach a record of theirs without a hardhat. I’m wearing one this very instant, at my desk. I’m getting some strange looks.
And then I’m like, well of course this is on Thrill Jockey, it has Thrill Jockey written all over it. The stabs to classify this as “post rock” in some way against the Thrill Jockey aesthetic is too easy to avoid. But the wrongness of that assumption is “100%” and “dead,” because this is cooked up by the groovy folks over at Home Normal, the Tokyo(ish)-based label that’s been around since 2009 but I’ve somehow just gotten around to checking out recently. (Who do I blame for that? Gotta blame somebody. Can’t be my own fault.) They’ve gotten their paws on some solid gold output here. Solid bloody gold.
Mere ebbs and flows, a metaphor that I realize mimics water rather than construction equipment, but hey, it’s my prerogative to mix up these bad boys if I want to. The crests and troughs (water!) organically appear as the musicians pull and push against each other, the tension inherent in the majestic builds and the locked oneness of purpose obvious in the stretched intervals. The players’ technical precision (construction!) is at once clearly at work, the façade stripped to the mechanism, and seamlessly integrated into a greater whole. The result is overtly cinematic at points, subtly cinematic at others, and almost always fairly cinematic in some way. Mere conjures vast expanses and also conflict with ease, and it is a great wonder why I haven’t heard their music on film soundtracks. (One reason would be that this is my introduction to the group, but let’s not get pushy about it.) They are kindred spirits to artists like Ennio Morricone and Warren Ellis and Johnny Greenwood, as well as others like Sam Shalabi. They belong in the view, as it were, of an audience. They don’t need to be experienced with visual accompaniment, but it would sure be cool if they were experienced that way.
II and III follow in the footsteps of their 2012 self-titled album on Gizeh Records. Each track title is a roman numeral, and II begins at “IV” while III begins at “VII.” I strongly urge you to experience the full trilogy, and I hope for a continuation of this project, kind of like I hope for an unending continuation of Star Wars (except of course for the eminently skippable I through III situation there). Maybe the boys of Mere could throw on a couple hardhats themselves and lend a hand in building the next Death Star or Death Star–related Imperial superweapon. Or they could open a club where they’d serve as the overly dour alien cantina band.
What number metaphor was that? I’ve lost count.
Ryan “Critical” Masteller