Wollongong, Australia band This Mess hit the ground running in 2012 and have yet to look back, it seems. Quickly landing gigs with luminaries such as Sneaky Sound System, Owl Eyes, Fire! Santa Rosa Fire!, never mind love from Triple J Unearthed Radio, the electronic duo of Tace McNamara and Jim Wilson recently dropped their debut self-titled EP. Enchanting from moment one — in a mental magic way, not Disney — This Mess is anything but.
What’s immediately striking about This Mess is their minimalistic approach to the chillwave genre. Less is often more in my books, and the carefully crafted instrumentals allow Tace McNamara’s soulful vocals to soar and shine, as they should. Synthesizers lend a harmonic resonance to the pained and playful highs and lows, enhancing the atmospheric vibe of each track. The live instrumentation is also a tremendous plus, as evidenced in my enduring appreciation of similarly-minded artist Wet Eyes.
Also striking is the exploratory nature of This Mess. Take opener “Heavy Head”, for example, which delivers a soul-hop vibe reminiscent to Massive Attack’s Mezzanine era (complete with the subtle anger of calling out a false king upon his throne, so to speak). One could easily nestle the track between the chart toppers of the R&B scene.
In contrast, “The Worst In Me” brings an indie rock edge to the chilled out proceedings — a happier version of How To Destroy Angels, perhaps. The twists of flavour lend a uniqueness to each song that keeps the EP fresh on repeated listens. A more classic chillout sound engages listeners on “Castles”, a lyrically sparse tune with an ethereal, almost 8-bit cloud to drift away on. Sonic sunshine with a chance of showers.
One of the strongest tracks on the EP is penultimate track “Love ’til We’re Lonely”, a more expansive track than the standard fare of the duo, but rightfully so. It evokes the best of Moby’s Play with its heartbreak theme and layered vocal echoes — lovelorn ghosts in chorus with Tace’s upfront powerhouse delivery. With every chorus, a new crescendo is struck and the hook is incredibly tight. Closer “My Only Gifts” is the showcase track however, with its softened industrial feel reminiscent of the best of Recoil (I’m thinking of their album Liquid, particularly the tracks fronted by poet noir Nicole Blackman). It’s the song that veers farthest from the median line of This Mess’ soul-hop vibe, and it is breathtaking to behold.
Unquestionably, This Mess is a band to watch for in 2013. They’re destined to leave an indelible mark on the chillout end of the electronic spectrum, perhaps evolving it to a higher plane.
Final Grade: A+
You can stream the EP below or head over to the band’s page to learn more about This Mess.