…Something that sounds more alien, intriguing and, paradoxically, warmer and more human.


Peter Rophone, Andy McAuley: guitar, noises; Bo Meson: vocals, noises; Martin Archer: saxophone, loops, flute, keyboards; Sarah Palmer: cello; Jez Creek: electronica

Recorded at 77 Studios in mid-January when Sarah Palmer was leaving Sheffield (and England)

Meson are a collective of improvising musicians with an everchanging membership that coalesces around the creativity of Bo Meson – who describes himself as a metaphysicist. The subject matter of the pieces are hinted at by titles that include ‘Frack off’ (track 3), ‘Doors of deception’ (track 4), ‘Chronological quantum jump’ (track 7) and ‘Gravitons and phlogistons’ (track 9).

On this recording six musicians collaborate to improvise settings for Bo Meson’s richly evocative and disturbing words. Fragments of words spoken in a variety of voices (with additional sources identifiable, to me, traces of Janet and Alan Ahlberg’s children’s stories and Samuel Beckett plays, but probably other snippets blended with Bo Meson’s peculiar sense of meaning and linguistic order).

The speech frames the rhythms and patterns of the music and calls to mind a host of composers who have explored this (for me, this includes Harry Partch and Steve Reich). The borrowing of the words ‘Lucy in the Sky’ (without much trace of their familiar musical settings but with a repeating rhythm that sets the metre for the piece) on ‘Chronological quantum jump’, gives the opportunity for Bo Meson to push a variety of perspectives on how and why Lucy might be where she is.

The repeated lyric ‘I maybe the pope in an alternate universe… but I will never be too old to be too young… I am intentionally blank so that only you can read me’ (‘Alternative pope’, track 5) shows the twisted logic of the words, but this doesn’t tell you how the musical settings are able to present the words in such ways that they feel as if they make complete sense.

This song, in particular, drew me back to the experimental electronic bands from Sheffield in the 1980s – I’m thinking ClockDVA and Caberet Voltaire in particular – but whereas those bands tended to foment their sounds from the nascent synthesizers of the time, Meson’s analogue instruments (albeit through the plethora of effects used by each player) creates something that sounds more alien, intriguing and, paradoxically, warmer and more human.

Reviewed by Chris Baber