Full EP Steam & Interview: Mesa – “Glow”

Black and sludge metal are breeding grounds for experimentation, often crossing over into each other. Such is the case on Glow, the new EP from California-based duo Mesa. At three songs, Glow is a digestible bit of blackened sludge that uses synthesizers and programmed drums to achieve a sound that is dreamy but aggressive.

Meant to be listened to as a piece reflecting on the calm before the end times, the feelings Glow creates aren’t dissimilar to a fitful or interrupted dream. The bright synths elicit a surreal feeling, both in their tones and in the use of MIDI instruments in a subgenre that typically does not use them.

Aided by the poetic lyrics of songs like “An’other” (“Inside the furrowed tree’s bough / The faeries dwell dancing madly. / With their drunken hearts and stabbing hands / They aim to take you away from us”) and multi-instrumentalist Marie McAuliffe’s shrieks and screams, Mesa successfully transport the listener.

Glow is out digitally and on cassette via Realm & Ritual on October 23, but Decibel is streaming the EP in full alongside an interview with McAuliffe.

It’s been two years since Mesa released anything and more than four since you’ve released something without collaborators. How do you feel the band’s sound has changed in that time?
In that time we first demoed out a full-length that we put on hold while our direction changed. Adam (Heller) started getting more synths and drum machines for his project The Deep Silence and we wanted to incorporate a more diverse sound palette into the material. Glow was just that. We’ve been trying to blend various elements of electronic music and chamber music into sludge metal.

Glow features heavy use of midi sounds and programmed drums in addition to guitars, synths and blackened vocals. Do you find it tricky to balance “synthetic” instruments with “real” ones?
We find it tricky to write something that is able to blend all these layers together and balance the sounds of heavily distorted guitar with everything else.

The new EP reflects upon “the lost tranquility before the end times.” Is that a general allusion to the current condition of the world or does it refer to something more abstract or personal than that?
It’s both a reflection of the world and of an abstract theme of the band. Creation, Glow and the coming two releases build on that theme and mythology. Creation is a primordial entirely lost age where myth and reality were one. Glow is the last of that age where myth is lost. It’s reflective of the human transition from hunter-gather to more organized settled societies and the beginnings of capital as a force.

What are your influences when writing music for Mesa, whether that be musical or something else?
The biggest influence for Mesa are dreams, either through direct transcription or inspiration. Our biggest influence musically is the band Maudlin of the Well; that band changed the way we wrote music. Besides them we’re also big fans of Carbon Based Lifeforms, Koji Kondo, King Crimson and Black Sheep Wall.

Mesa is already in the process of writing a full-length record. Is the EP a good indicator of the direction your sound will go or will it move in another direction?
Yes, we’re currently on the final recording stages and are hoping to have it out early next year. The EP is a nice taste of how it sound has changed and I’m sure if you like the EP you’ll like the full-length.