INTELLESSENCE – Mesmer
Buy the album here.
Intellessence is the musical handle for Madisonian Dave Jensen. In addition to creating music Jensen is an amateur filmmaker and a writer having written a novel as well as poetry and a book of lyrics, some of which are to songs included on Mesmer.
This is a completely solo recording project, the type of which can present special issues. The technology for rhythm track programming is far advanced from what it once was when Todd Rundgren created Something/Anything. But while Rundgen sat down behind the drum kit, programming tends to limit rhythmic and time signature variation. There’s always a tendency in the projects to ask the usual questions about collaboration and the kinetics that happen between players as well. Part of the excitement in hearing new, appealing music is the anticipation of seeing the performers live, to measure their artistic level because recording can sometimes over-represent. If they kick as much ass live as they do on record, you’ve got a winner, generally. So while there is certainly artistic merit capable of being achieved by one person creating a “band” sound, it’s quite likely that the brain is subliminally putting up these type of constraints.
The essence of Intellessence harkens back to the eighties as the ethereal sounds of the decade that preceded met then-current technological advancements. Mesmer has an English feel to it, perhaps described as a cross between Pink Floyd and Dream Academy (who were produced by Floyd’s David Gilmour) with just a touch of the Cure. There is a bit of sameness to these nine tracks, which run around the four-to-five minute mark. Banks of keyboards create a wall of sound and the tempos are all in the same ball park. Guitars are mostly legato, single-line statements or chording in the background. The overall effect instrumentally is that it succeeds in creating mood without flashy prowess.
The songs that flourish best are those that have the hookiest vocals, despite the fact that the layered effect results in them getting a bit lost in the mix rendering them a bit difficult to decipher. It’s likely that this is the result Jensen is after with Intellessence. “Tranquility” is one of the best of these with a real catchy chorus that sticks in the head and some spacey e-bow guitar lines. The opening track “Awake” washes in on waves of white noise before the rest of the instruments make a grand and impressive entrance and then maintain focus throughout. “Forever” has a nice melody with a guitar figure that is the song’s main hook and the chord progression is a bit more developed. “Ethereal” employs auto-tune on the vocals to good effect, avoiding the irritating aversion that effect can unleash. The album’s centerpiece is ten-minute “Blue,” which employs an extended intro with spoken word played backwards; vocals come in at around the seven-minute mark. Instrumental “Simple” is a pleasing wash of sound and an appropriate length, avoiding the setting in of repetitiveness. “Love” closes the album on strong note with another mesmerizing vocal melody.
One might observe “432 Hz” in the lower corner of the CD cover. There is much debate about this “scientific tuning” where A=432 cycles per second vs standardized A=440 and whether there are sympathetic benefits. 8 Hz is said to be the “heartbeat of the world” and where the two sides of the brain are optimized. There is also much debate historically about the employment of the technique and how ancient civilizations may have been tapped into some knowledge that has become obscured over time.
Whether this has any real effect or not, Mesmer is an enjoyable record that invokes a nearly trancelike reaction; music that might accentuate an herbally-enhanced state of mind. For most of the cuts, one could listen to the first minute or so and jump ahead to the next track without missing much. Jensen’s challenge musically is to expand on the sonic foundation on display with Mesmer, and, for the record, a live multimedia presentation would be most intriguing.