Mesadorm’s debut album has a European art-pop flavour about it. Heterogaster is a melting pot of ideas and individual artists each bringing their own artistic flair to the table. Often songs have a specific focal point, letting individuals breathe and as a result, Mesadorm’s debut is a triumph.
The sparse “Speak to Me” opens the album with hushed warm vocals and a slow awakening of synths that gradually bleed out into your ears, evolving and growing in strength and confusion. It’s atmospheric and it’s tilt towards darker tones then makes the joyous indie pop “Tell Me” all the happier. It’s tripping military beats for a verse and happy marimba rolls for an explosive chorus reminds me of Bjork’s Vespertine – but with a Nordic twang. “Yours and Not Yours” is the most aggressive track on the album with razor-sharp synth buzzing away to a heavy bass beat and purposely cross note vocals that give a feeling of machines malfunctioning. It’s the album outlier musically but shows that Mesadorm can rock with the best of them.
In fact much of Mesadorm’s debut is more gentile and atmospheric. “Alice” is a beautifully balanced piece of tuned percussion and minimal synth work creating an icy backdrop for a cute and vulnerable vocal performance. The gripping emotion as the words “I’ve never seen myself before, you conjure me” are repeated over and over feel cathartic. “Easy” is emotional from a warming and cosy sense. The faint but old piano is played in a bluesy but quite minimal chord based way and the band sing the chorus together but with other voices from different generations. It’s recorded in a really intimate way so you hear every crack of the piano and when paired with a delicate elderly ladies voice – it just melts your heart. Gospel pop at its finest.
“Obsidian” leans towards piano rock with its dramatic finale of ringing guitars, soaring vocals, dramatic string arrangements and rolling drums. I wish the pay off stayed around for longer as the song builds up over its four minutes to a really short peak. “One of My Friends” is all about the organ. It reminds me of Siobhan Doughty’s solo music. The coda’s in the song revolve around warped vocals twisting through octaves over huge church organs and thick wooden drums. What’s not to love?
“Drink You” is the Florence and the Machine track of the album, if a little more chilled. The synth work here is beautiful as you can’t tell where the keyboards end and the backing vocals begin. It creates a wonderful sheen that the bass and percussion workaround to create a slogging plod before the title track provides a dark string and vocal piece. It feels like what would happen if Zola Jesus was Icelandic and doing her dark gothic electronica with a string quartet instead. The album closes with gloriously upbeat and happy Beatle-like rock anthem celebrating all that is around us. Its dramatic gospel-tinged finale works perfectly and is bookended with birdsong and glistening synth ambience that washes the album over you.
Heterogaster is a wonderful album full of tonal shifts, intimate moments of warming peace and some moments of musical genius in production and sound design. Easily my favourite new band of 2018 I’ve discovered so far, Mesadorm comes highly recommended.
Recommended track: Tell Me