Free from any traditionalist doctrine and eclectic in its influences, Mike Wexler’s Dispossession is an album that pushes the boundaries of any classification it may find itself under. Powerful in its slow pace and soft, unhurried potency, Dispossession unfurls its seven tracks in a style that is very much Wexler’s own. Its closest affiliation is to the Canterbury scene of the late sixties and early seventies, borrowing elements of jazz and progressive rock, bound together by the backbone of Wexler’s intricate guitar playing. The unorthodox harmonic writing coupled with Wexler’s haunting, softly granulated vocal creates a dark, atmospheric melancholy, comparable to that of Nick Drake. The album is not, however, merely a seventies pastiche or overly gentle experience; the use of electronics create a sonic intensity that permeates the record, whilst adding to the eclectic mix of techniques that the album draws upon.
The opening track, ‘Pariah’, works well as an exposition of the rest of the album. At six and a half minutes long it sits as a rough average in terms of length, with four of the seven tracks lasting over six minutes. The slow progression of musical ideas, steady rhythm and dark atmosphere remain prominent features throughout the album. Although this provides Dispossession with a clearly defined style, Wexler’s reluctance to push his own boundaries doesn’t allow for much of an emotional “journey”.
‘Spectrum’ provides the clearest example of Wexler’s musical resemblance to Nick Drake, similar in style and instrumentation to Drake’s ‘Three Hours’; both rhythmically driven tracks powered by congas and dense, complex acoustic guitar playing. But this being a multi-faceted album, ‘Spectrum’ is also notable for its prominent use of electronics. A synth pad morphing in texture washes through the track, an exploration of timbre akin to the music of Eliane Radigue, Tristan Murail and other Spectralist composer’s, perhaps paid homage to in the title. We find Wexler’s most interesting sonic explorations, however, in the grinding intensity of the penultimate track, ‘Glyph’, as droning string textures sweep in waves over the otherwise sparse instrumentation.
Occasional blooms of free improvisation appear throughout the album, a striking example found in the saxophone solo in the rhythmically uniform ‘Lens’ and during the epic nine and a half minute final track, ‘Liminal’.
It is the combination of these techniques derived from the varying genres of electronic music, folk, jazz and rock that constitute Wexler’s style. It is also why the prevailing melancholic atmosphere remains unchanging throughout the album, as without some omnipresent feature, this eclectic mix of influences would exclude any all-embracing style. Dispossession retains an idiosyncratic sound. It does so with a reference to the roots of its influences without being bound to them, and with an acute awareness of the diversity of today’s musical culture to draw upon.
Released 5th March 2012 by Mexican Summer