Bonnie Mercer is a Melbourne based guitarist and worshipper of shimmering near ecstatic feedback that in the right hands the instrument seems to effortlessly conjure. Wielding the axe in noisy Melbourne outfits like The Grey Daturas, Paul Kidney Experience, Little Desert and the Dacios, the music on Mystic Decade captures various solo pieces she has licensed out to compilations in Australia, North America and Europe between 2007 and 2017. As you can imagine over the course of the decade there’s always going to be some diversity in the work. I’d hesitate to say development, as it’s more evolution, following her experimental whims. There’s big and blustering wailing atonal feedback one track and the next some kind of weird heavily delayed almost subtle piece where technique is difficult to pin down and is actually quite creepy. She uses feedback as drones, manipulates pitches, builds density and really considers her tones across the frequency spectrum.
You get the sense that with each piece she is pursuing her electric guitar down a series of rabbit holes – yet when all the pieces are collected together it reads like a considered exploration of the potential of the instrument. Even when its soft, you know there is power and violence lurking somewhere in the depths of the tune, just waiting to be let out. And she’s not afraid to do so, at times dealing with difficult pitches and rough textures.
Predominantly solo guitar, the one piece with bass and drums (the suitably named Mystic) reminds me of Neil Young’s Arc Weld experiments, big lumbering hypnotic hysteria. Elsewhere, such as on Eat Guitars the frantic spluttering bursts of feedback are reminiscent of Caspar Brotzman’s experiments. Yet this is never derivative, or a homage, this is Mercer’s pure artistic vision. The links are only rough and fleeting.
Noisy feedback guitar is funny. There are whole worlds hiding in there if you want to hear them. The oscillations, the harmonics, the density, the waves of sound all form part of the compositional arsenal. There’s fragility and there’s violence, there’s the sound of worlds ending and hope for the future – and it’s this simultaneous contradiction that Mercer seems to find so interesting. I hear barely harnessed psychedlia, I hear shoegaze, I hear urgent punk and lofi sludge. I hear improvised experimentalism, I can even hear musique concrete.
I wonder what she hears?