If you ever listened to or seen Dirty Three, you will appreciate that their music and presence could be described as barely constrained chaos: a mesmerising and full tilt sonic experience emulating a series of small explosions. Mick Turner, guitarist from The Dirty Three has joined forces with Helen Franzmann from Brisbane band McKisko to create the duo Mess Esque which seems to perfectly invert the excesses of The Dirty Three. Mess Esque creates a certain unrestrained order and quietude underpinned by a tamed wildness that seethes and burns underneath. The result is something mesmerising while burning white hot with a blinding intensity.
Franzmann appeared on our pages recently providing backing singing for the remarkable Aren’t‘s debut ‘The Black from The Dark’ (premiered by Backseat Mafia last month) and in Mess Esque she provides words and vocals over Turner’s jagged, rough-hewn and expressive guitars. Velvet soft delicacy laid over a barbed wire bed. Remarkable, the whole recording was undertaken remotely: the pair have never met. This belies the intimacy present in the recording.
Opening track ‘Wake Up To Yesterday’ has soft reflective and yearning vocals over a gently rumbling and roaming guitar – part spoken poetry with heavenly harmonies. A Hammond Organ floats across the scenery – for indeed this is widescreen cinematic music that is hypnotic and expansive – breaking into back-of-the-neck hair raising melodies as Franzmann softly sings where you going to go? This is heartbreaking and beautiful.
‘Sweetspot’ provides a jumbled sedated instrumentation that gurgles and dapples underneath subtle wind instruments breathing gently, while Franzmann’s delicate almost childlike voice imbued with a blank slate innocence – think of Mo Tucker’s contributions to Velvet Underground. Like some fairy tale told late a night with a distant sense of doom and terror: this is a hypnotic tale imbued with a anxiety and brittleness.
Spoken and whispered vocals, burnished with a gently backing vocal layers, Franzmann’s voice in ‘Forever’ burns softly with a scorching intensity and wanders wistfully over sparse instrumentation: the subtle synths lending an haunting backdrop.
The intensity turns up in ‘Jupiter’ with organs and guitars creating a sliding ethereal tone – circular and hypnotic, Franzmann;s voice melancholy and delicate.
‘Take It OUtside’ introduces a more muscular pace with drums edging their way ahead in the mix and Franzmann’s vocals evoking indelible melodies that ring out like a playground chant. There is delicacy, a brittle edge in the vocals as they surf the shuffling percussion.
Final track, ‘Beneath The Rain’ leaves us with a reflective, gentle rambling track with Franzmann’s voice ghostly and evocative and Turner’s gentle guitars providing a soft crystalline edge.
‘Mess Esque’ the album is an ethereal, gentle delight: yearning brittle and delicate vocals that glide over subtle but barely restrained instrumentation that adds a gold filigree to a barbed wire brush. It has the raw and visceral edge of Velvet Underground mixed with a dream pop blur – a late night excess that has resolved into a blurred fugue. What a magical collaboration.