With Mescaliner’s phenomenal debut, Eye, the band finds a new niche in instrumental post-rock by uniting sounds from various genres in a live, palpable atmosphere. Such a dynamic infuses the music a current of humanity in the sense that melodies emerge from live takes, making them an instinctive and immediate product of the musicians themselves. According to the band's website, it is a self-proclaimed ambient/experimental/jam band, but the music on this album redefines these labels and sets forth music that can't be broken down by a simple genre comparison. Given Mescaliner's affinity for live jamming, its musical approach of conceiving live pieces for studio recording bears resemblance to King Crimson, yet stylistically it's removed from the Crimson's sound. To think that songs with such musical cohesion were recorded in a single day only refines one’s appreciation for the band’s musical creation.
Thematically, the titles of their songs, like “Elyon” and “I Am Air and You are Wind” belie the true emotional range of the songs themselves. In “Elyon,” one of many Hebrew epithets used to name the God of Israel, the Dutch quartet immediately infuses a sinister yet majestic Arab guitar line and then changes the meter, adding an urgency to the music, as if extolling the God of Israel ages ago. Granted, such a reading only arises if one knows the background of the song, but such awareness only heightens one's appreciation for the song. Similarly, “I Am the Air and You are the Wind” also puts forth a melancholic mood, as the band begins with a delicate guitar intro which dramatically evolves into triumphant riffing, but it is always infused with a captivating melody. Then, to the listener’s surprise, Mescaliner seamlessly begins a mellow, space-rock workout that recalls the work of Pink Floyd on Animals. The band moves from metal to mellow, executing all the difficult transitions that a multi-genre album requires effortlessly.
Although one could examine and reexamine the musical similarities the music has with other albums and bands, songs like “Metropolis” and “Those Who Flee from the Sun” challenge such a categorical aim. In “Metropolis,” Mescaliner conquers more genres by evaluating the possibilities of musical transition with aggressive highs and becalming lows, creating a musical catharsis of fortitude and reflection. In the same approach, the band captures the evasive duo of atmospheres and sentiment with the sinister bass-line instrumental of “Those Who Flee from the Sun,” which moves into some high-hat clashing and quick guitar, refining the album’s already tangible musical tension.
Unsurprisingly, “Street Chalk Walkers” preserves the musical cohesion as well, capturing all the musical elements that define great instrumental rock, with its lugubrious drum and bass introduction and mournful guitar melody. Perhaps, the best part of this song is that the band lets the distortion “hang” or “ring” as the other instruments play on, creating this stop-and-go idea—dizzying, albeit captivating, musical atmosphere.
In the way of album and structure, Mescaliner bookends its workouts with the songs, “Intro” and “Outro.” Although such songs traditionally become short instrumentals usually under a minute, the band's intro and outro eschew the musical stereotype by creating musical structures at three to four minutes in length—with all the musical elements that require grand titles. Such a situation highlights the band’s confidence in its music by letting the music speak for itself. In short, these common titles belie the cohesion of the introduction and conclusion, creating a sound that any instrumental rock band would vie for.
Thus, Mescaliner brings a new approach to the instrumental music scene, one that benefits from live performance and diverse styles yet avoids the musical bombast of instrumental live performance. Album art also shapes the aesthetic of the work, and Norah Dantchev’s “Eye” adds an important visual element to the experience of the album. With a black tree rising, disappearing, and reappearing inside and outside the pupil, with branches as eyelashes and plants as veins, all inside a bucolic eye, the band continues to shift and examine the nature of sound and styles, much like the album’s namesake. Always cohesive yet cathartic, simple yet sinister, Mescaliner offers a stunning model for the changing musical templates of instrumental rock bands and comes strongly recommended to fans and musicians alike.