Items in Basket: 0
Mess Esque

Mess Esque

Mess Esque

Label: Drag City

Genre: Rock / Pop


  • LP €23.99
    Dispatched within 5-10 working days
Mess Esque coalesce from ripples of guitar and shudders of emotion into the bumps and grooves of songs with biologic inevitability. Mick Turner’s aquatic guitar moods are met where they live and breathe by the vocals and dream imagery of Helen Franzmann aka McKisco, causing nights, moons, low tides and empty landscapes to simmer with raw passion.

Mess Esque are a duo featuring music and instruments by Mick Turner and words and voice by Helen Franzmann. Their self-titled album is a beguiling travelogue of restless, somnambulant wanderings.

Perhaps best known as one of the Dirty Three, Mick’s been playing guitar and making music with many collaborators for forty years. Around here, we love his paintings too —- but revere him especially for his solo music -– since 1997, we’ve released four of his albums, plus an EP and an album of the Tren Brothers (Mick with percussionist and fellow Dirty Threeite, Jim White) and two EPs featuring Mick as the Marquis de Tren with Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy.

Mick’s last record was 2013’s “Don’t Tell the Driver,” a work that found him departing from his traditional hermetic instrumental template by employing a rhythm section and brass charts and even collaborating with a vocalist. After all the purely instrumental music he’s made with Dirty Three and solo, a singer is now part of the sound he’s hearing in his head these days; while demoing new material, he realized that he was again writing music that needed lyrics –- and for that matter, someone other than himself to sing them. But who? In 2019, he was introduced to Helen through a mutual friend who’d produced her last album. Under the name Mckisko, Helen has released three albums over the past 12 years, working and touring with a range of Australian musicians along the way. Her music has been described as numinous and transformative. Her most recent album “Southerly” saw her moving into a more expansive sound which led to an openness and excitement around further collaboration.

Helen lives in Brisbane; Mick in Melbourne. They started sending ideas back and forth with a plan to get together somewhere or another in 2020 and make a record. Then everything else happened instead, so they continued to collaborate from a distance, pouring meditations from their individual isolations into the greater whole. With feet rooted in the real world, their correspondence took flight, electrifying in the air between the cities. Helen took in the drift of Mick’s tracks, a brew of guitars, organs, bass and drums dizzyingly circling about. When she sang over them, it altered their meaning; upon hearing them again, Mick was inspired to make revisions, for Helen to respond to again. And so the music grew.

2021, and the album’s done, and they’ve made a band in the process, but Mick and Helen still haven’t met face-to-face yet! Listening to “Mess Esque”, you’ll never know it. Their collaboration has an intimate feel to it, a shared space. Helen’s words are carefully observed, her phrasing responding intuitively to Mick’s looping guitar figures with vocal repetitions of her own. Starting with a feeling or a voicing, there are often no words – both players are searching on their own paths. Then suddenly they have arrived and are passing the emerging meaning back and forth, the rising intensity forming a kind of undertow that pulls the listener deeper into their world.

Often, Helen would record her vocals in the middle of the night, seeking that 2am flow, a moment of greatest isolation through which to trace her melodie with fragility and strength. This crystallizes Mess Esque’s intention: riding the sleepy drift through the blurred edges of the day…time-traveling to that moment beyond stasis where sense and no sense coincide and share space and time and energy. Viewing from afar the immense peace of this planet when its ghost world of spirits below -– the madness of crowds, people sliding past each other faraway in the night -– are quieted at last.

Through patient cultivation of improvisations and musical certainties and a focused pursuit of something that didn’t appear to be there in the beginning, Mess Esque have willed themselves and the world around them into verdant, lustrous being.