Meshes is such a departure for Munich’s Joasihno that you wonder if principal member Cico Beck should have released it under a different moniker altogether. The music was created by Beck not only in collaboration with his regular cohort Nico Sierig but also with the assistance of a “robot orchestra”, which is the kind of thing they used to predict on Tomorrow’s World. While Joasihno’s first two albums were based around traditional pop structures, essentially trading in song-based folktronica, the works assembled on this third effort, which are mostly without words or vocals, prove far more spontaneous, experimental and abstract.
The mechanical influence is apparent from the start. The amiable bleepery of ‘Nuh Nuh’ sounds like a robot recycled from the remnants of a steel drum who yearns to play the electro-harp for Cluster.This is followed by ‘Wondrous Sibling’ which is wheezier in nature, fatigued but optimistic, with a low-battery feel to it even after its distorted beat kicks in. And then there’s the rapid pulsations of ‘Bells Game’, a ready-made score for a scene in an animated feature film where a toy telephone is forced to flee down a pretty steep mountain path.
The record’s greatest triumph is ‘EFOM’. Building from minimalist wobble to an expertly layered mixture of electro twinkles, soothing synth chords and warm oscillations, it evokes similar feelings to the first time you heard Four Tet’s early work. Another doozy is the fifth track, ‘Grounds’, with its krautrock pulse, fuzzy distortion and wordless exhalations. This cut gets particularly groovy at around the halfway mark when its Neu-ish motorik drums appear, before ending nicely by fading to metronome clicks and keyboard washes on the outro.
Not every Meshes piece is quite so successful. ‘Temporary Parallel’ aspires to escape the awkwardly lo-fi demo feel of its intro but the damp woollen string sounds and Super Furry Animals-esque “ba-ba-ba” vocals are not enough to rescue it from cute redundancy. Similarly, ‘Retoure’ combines a simple, jaunty guitar motif with birdsong-like samples and annoying horn parps, resulting in what could be mistaken for an outtake from Mark Oliver Everett of Eels’ pseudonymous MC Honky record.
It’s self-indulgent, over-wacky and undercooked.
However much of a mixed bag it is, Meshes is undoubtedly a watershed moment for Joasihno’s music. Having bent away the bars of the verse-chorus-verse sing-song prison, Beck has bravely moved into more ambitious and unusual terrain. Even if they haven’t quite nailed every track this time round, it’s a very promising new beginning for Joasihno and their automaton ensemble.