A Journal Of The Dark Arts
With pungent sauces, multiply variety
In a wilderness of mirrors.
– T. S. Eliot, Gerontion
Lawrence English takes us into the wilderness on his first album in 3 years, and return to Room40.
What must we do in a world where information abounds, while wisdom withers? In a world where we’re supposedly all connected, yet everyone feels alone? Where we’re seemingly progressing to a more just world, and yet everyone sits back and watches, while our basic human dignity is slowly sucked away?
Wilderness Of Mirrors is English, shouting into the void, not necessarily protesting the state, but observing and commenting on it, creating the sensation of “reflection upon reflection, a pure white out of absolute aurality,” with 40 minutes of layered drones, sustained tones, flickering static and ghostly harmonics. The overall sensation is of sitting by a mighty river, watching the sticks, the sunlight, whorls, and eddies, as thoughts wizz by, like so many biting flies.
When the signal-to-noise ratio gets too dense, the wise man retreats, into silence and contemplation. Into the wilderness. To get some space – space to breathe and think for one’s self. To keep up with the modern world is a losing battle. It’s all entropy, now, and we must dream a new way into being.
Wilderness Of Mirrors was recorded over the span of 2 years, where English found himself re-invigorated by the tectonic body musicks of Swans, Earth, and My Bloody Valentine. This comes across, as Wilderness Of Mirrors is an intensely physical listening experience, with powerful bass tones pulverizing the frontal lobe, creating a reptile brain feeling of awe, wonder, and terror.
I was reminded of the first time i fell in love with Tim Hecker, when Harmony In Ultraviolet washed over me like some neon lava wind tunnel, sitting in an empty cavernous warehouse in New Orleans. The music, when turned all the way up, eradicates all thoughts – it’s like being buried in a mudslide. It creates a similar sensation to a clearing in a forest, as all thoughts of civilization slowly drip out of yr brain, re-awakening the sensory sphere, the biological imperative, the ancient wisdom.
Fans of Ben Frost‘s gorgeous neo-classical drones will fawn over themselves over this one, as well. Wilderness Of Mirrors has been compared to The Haxan Cloak, and that is also apt, with its leaden bassweight, although WOM is less terrifying, and more contemplative.
I have absolutely, positively no idea how Lawrence English is making any of these sounds? Is it a synth? Modified field recordings? Wilderness Of Mirrors is a true wonder of disembodied tones and textures – truly otherworldly.
The album is definitely of a whole, but for these ears, “The Liquid Mirror”, “Another Body”, “Wrapped In Skin”, and “Forgiving Noir”, are definite standouts, like basalt columns, amidst the eddies of living light.
I’ve been meaning to write about this since it came out in July, but the timing seems right. The autumn seems to invite lulling, drifting, droney ambient music. It’s the perfect time to watch the leaves flutter in the breeze, to watch shadows dance of the walls and floors.
Sometimes we all need to get away – away from other people, their expectations and projections, to find some true self-reflection, and not in someone else’s eyes. Who are you, when no one else is looking? What kind of music would you make, if no one was listening? These are the kinds of questions we need to reflect on, to get beyond the hypermanic treadmill of just trying to keep up, and actually move with grace, surety, and purpose.
Wilderness Of Mirrors gives us a chance to do that, no matter where we live. It serves as an eye in the hurricane; a port in the storm. A place where we can find ourselves. And lose ourselves. A place to reflect, to tap in, to dream of the future and remember the past.