Review: Markus Mehr – Dyschronia

Dyschronia Cover ArtI couldn’t have picked a better time to write about this record. I’m currently working nightshifts. 7pm until 7am. They don’t come up often, but given the amount of effort I’ve exerted in trying to whip my circadian clock into obedience over the past couple of years (earlier bedtime, no caffeine after midday, no screens at night etc), they’re becoming increasingly difficult to endure. I tend to awake at about 2pm after five hours of intermittent sleep, and then step outside and pretend that I’m a diurnal creature just like everyone else, shuffling through the food hall of Marks & Spencer and squinting at the lights and white surfaces of the freezer aisle. Dyschronia opens on a collage of imagined musical fragments, detuned radios and the bustle of morning commute, and I float from one space to another without even a moment of stillness, each sound slipping off the rim of the stereo image before I have the opportunity to properly engage with it.

There’s also a low, buzzing drone at the centre, which perfectly captures that sleepless headache, that pressure on my temples that gently urges my eyes to close, that harsh artificial light that renders every hallway and room as a sterile, synthetic render of the daytime. This thick electronic hum is the sound of the body in nauseated complaint. I shouldn’t be awake. Of course, this sensation isn’t exclusive to my night shifts. It also rings true to those days when I let my daily routine slip. Instead of allowing the daytime to trail off elegantly through evening ritual, reducing my activity to a book read by warm light before lowering me toward sleep, I hold myself within a state of transient consumption until I pass out. With restless sleep comes an ever-fainter distinction between one day and another, and a gradual blurring at the edges of sensory experience. Dyschronia carries this scenario to its very extreme, disconnecting me entirely from the passing of time.

As well as enacting collage in a manner that feels thoroughly drowsy, swerving into incomplete extracts of conversation and rolling instrumental loops around the frame like kneaded dough under palm, Mehr manages to evoke that tangling of present tense experience and retrospect. Synthesisers trade places with the clatter of public spaces, which in turn melt into a tentative whimper of violins or the crack of ice in a glass, which then sink into electronc chords that slosh from left to right, which then curdle into the falsetto vowels of church choir. Everything is vague and only part-received, which makes it difficult to distinguish between the “just heard” and “hearing now”; I sleepwalk between sounds while daydreaming about the one before and fantasising about the potential sound to come, splaying my sensory engagement all across the axis of time. It’s clearly a beautifully made record, and part of me wishes I could be more awake to vividly appreciate that.