Sometimes I feel a little guilty about liking Mersault as much as I do. In the rarefied world of eai, it’s a bit like wrapping one’s mouth around a big, gooey piece of fudge. It’s thick, delicious and maybe not great for you but damn is it good. A large part of its confectionary aspect is that two thirds of the trio, percussionist Christian Wolfarth and acoustic bassist Christian Weber, generally operate in areas not entirely dissociated from the extremes of jazz-oriented improv, leaving Tomas Korber to explicitly cover the post-AMM territory. But their playing mines the richer, more tangentially melodic areas of same. If Fred Hopkins and Steve McCall had worked in this arena, they might have sounded like these guys.
In a sense, it’s a power trio though Weber’s bass, often arco, is at least the equivalent of Korber’s electronics in terms of up-frontness. Indeed, the unusually rich and tonal nature of his work causes the jaded listener to sit up and take notice. He can be astonishingly good, constructing massive walls of sound from which Wolfarth’s precise and hyper-detailed percussion (a bit like Martin Brandlmayr without the incessant rhythms) and Korber’s piercing, needlelike stabs emerge like spears from battlements. The first of three tracks, the longest at about a half hour, is a wondrous journey, the highlight of the disc. The abysses created by Weber’s low bowing against Korber’s high frequency sizzle open an enormous space through which Wolfarth can nimbly dance. I get the sense that these aren’t entirely free improvisations,
that there’s some amount of predetermined structure but, if so, that’s all to the good on tracks like the initial one. It moves inexorably, rotating, pulsing and writhing until it’s good and finished, one of the finer pieces I’ve heard this year. I mentioned two members of Air above; in some ways this sounds like a great Air work, thirty years down the line.

The remaining two cuts are enjoyable, if not quite up to same level. The second begins with some particularly beautiful percussion that occasionally explodes into snare figures of an oddly drum-corps character. A fascinating space is created and for a while, there’s a nice sparseness in play, a welcome tonic to the sheer force of much of the first piece. Eventually, though, it settles into a repeated bass thrum over high harmonic electronics and scraped cymbals that palls after a few minutes...and then continues for a few more. The last track is tastier, a drone-oriented number where, again (though differently from the earlier piece), Weber’s arco bass establishes the bottom, Korber travels the ionosphere and Wolfarth remains delightfully earthbound. Some semi-martial snare patterns recur, though this time they introduce an insistent, padded tapping that propels the work toward an explosive conclusion. Did someone say “power trio”? Less Air than Blue Cheer here, but still pretty effective.
A fine recording; pick it up.

Brian Olewnick
September 2007