Mere came about when the album’s three protagonists – Gareth Davis, Leo Fabriek and Thomas Cruijsen – were working together on a soundtrack for a Dutch documentary. The sound they carry over onto record is certainly cinematic, with each track consisting of clarinet, drums and guitar to create noir, brooding jazz of a kind that should find favour with fans of The Mount Fuji Doomjazz Corporation, The Thing and even – to an extent – Rangda, but allows enough light to shine through the cracks to avoid swallowing the listener completely. The album’s stand-out feature is the space the trio allow each other to operate within. Nothing seems crowded or rushed, which is a testament to the skill with which these three musicians operate, as is the fact these three untitled tracks were largely improvised and recorded live in one take.
‘I’ opens the record with Davis’ mournful clarinet floating above gradually building guitar from Cruijsen. Leo Fabriek – best known for his work in the Julie Mittens – is relatively restrained behind the kit, scattering his beats lightly through the spaces and pushing things on to a crescendo in which the elements combine to as squawking, thumping, grinding glory. ‘II’ uses reverb from Cruijsen’s guitar as a heat haze on which to float Davis’ slightly Eastern-sounding clarinet drones. They rise steadily upwards like heady plumes of perfumed smoke and the track meanders gently to a close having provided the album’s most evocative 10 minutes.
‘III’ comes out of the blocks where ‘I’ ended up, with the clarinet stretched and wild, the drums heavier and more urgent and the guitar bowed and scraped to within an inch of its life. At 25 minutes it is the longest piece of music on the album, but also the most immediate. It settles down at the midway point, hitting a rolling groove in which the musicians catch their collective breath but Fabriek’s gently insistent beat forces the trio to clash again, ensuring the album ends with a pleasingly chaotic cacophony and placing it highly in my list of favourites so far this year.