A mesostic is a form of wordplay where a vertical list of
words is aligned so that a word or phrase is formed horizontally. (The Mother’s
Day poem that starts “M is for the million things she gave me” is a crude form
of mesostic.) Joe Watson, a sometime
Stereolab keyboardist and High Llamas producer, applies this principal to
music, building complex, interlocking bits of baroque pop that tick along like
clockwork, while producing bizarre, accidental bits of poetry in the way the
elements glance off of one another.
Watson puts a lush palette of instrumentation in service of his
abstract ideas, bringing together synthesizers, guitars, harpsichords, organs, pianos,
machine drums and fluttery vocals together in lavish yet cerebral combinations.
Overall, the sound falls somewhere between XTC’s most elaborate psych pop,
Stereolab’s intricately patterned drones and the warm, humane electronics of
the Morr Music stable.
There are bits for every kind of listener here. While
sensualists may prefer the thumping, whomping hedonism of “Zero Distress”‘s
cubist disco beat, romantics may cleave to the languid nostalgias of “Fire
Island Sand,” and intellectuals to the chilly, brainier staccato of “Faulty
Reasoning.” Watson’s fluid vocals, embellished sometimes with counterparts and
other times murmuring and whispering alone, provides a connective thread to
otherwise pointillist concoctions of hammering percussive sounds. In “One is
Conspiracy” for instance, the piano stutters and skitters over syncopated
rhythmic underpinnings, a rushing, repetitive spray of discrete notes tied
together by sung melody. “Else Queen Elsie” practices its verbal acrobatics
against a late-1970s pop funk bass-synthesizer riff, like Earth Wind and Fire
doing the Sunday crossword in ink.
All of these songs are precise, intellectually rigorous
constructions, draped with ephemeral, multicolored whimsies. Pop elements
ensure that Musostics works
pleasantly enough as background music, but it is also complicated enough to
reward more concentrated listening.
Distress” “Else Queen Elsie” JENNIFER