As a co-founder of Berlin club night Janus along with fellow American expatriate Lotic, James Whipple has long been scouring cyberspace for hard-edged, futuristic sounds and recontextualizing them for the dancefloor. His initial releases as M.E.S.H. combined the jagged beats of U.K. grime and garage with dubby textures and a sense of meticulous sound design common to IDM producers such as Autechre, resulting in a sound and aesthetic occasionally referred to as "post-Internet." His debut full-length, Piteous Gate, is a bold step forward, leaving behind much of the dance-informed elements of his previous work and creating an unpredictable, sometimes frightening album of dark, theatrical soundscapes. The album utilizes plenty of harsh, demolishing sounds (the beat to "Optimate" sounds like a massive baseball bat smashing into a window) as well as more delicate ones, such as lutes and other Renaissance instruments. Dramatic horn sounds collide with thundering bass and skull-smashing beats, but there's an eerie sense of calm surrounding everything. M.E.S.H. doesn't constantly overwhelm the listener with punishing sounds, leaving plenty of space to breathe and reflect, and even provides a few lovely, more straightforward interludes such as "Jester's Visage." Piteous Gate is a gripping, suspenseful audio thriller, and along with 2015 releases by Fis, Lotic, Rabit, and Amnesia Scanner, it provides an eye-opening overview of how certain corners of the electronic music underground push club-derived sounds into confounding, challenging new directions.
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AllMusic Review by Paul Simpson