Mortal Loom: Alchemy Through Dreams


By Ben Varkentine

Reading press notes is often enlightening in a way those who would manage the media don’t intend. The idea behind them, at best, is to give those who are going to write about a CD (or movie, or whatever) an idea of what those responsible were trying to do. At worst, they’re an attempt to steer the direction of those writer’s pieces. Where they can become interesting is when what’s stated in black-and-white there does not seem to conform to the evidence of the writers senses. I’ll give you an example. According to the notes I was given for Cast Away, those who made it believe that all is well between the Tom Hanks and Helen Hunt characters before he is stranded on the island. When I saw it, I thought that a large part of the tragedy of the film is that by the time he really deserves her love, he has lost her.

Another example relates to this album. By the press notes, Mortal Loom believe they have created something (all these words are quotes) unique, mysterious, radical and fresh. And they patently haven’t. This is instantly dated music of the kind that the usual suspects (Duran League in the Dark) were playing in the ‘80s, albeit largely without vocals (the exception is a virtually straightforward reading of “Dream a Little Dream of Me”). Cheesy keyboards that sound as though they should be scoring a Flash Gordon movie over trip-hoppy programmed drums and percussion.

A talented producer might help and better drum programming certainly would make this a better record. But good records and good songs are not the same things, and I can see very little making these good songs. There aren’t any really strong pieces here, but it’s easy to pinpoint a couple of the weakest. I’m one who likes synthesizers, as those of you who have read my writing may know, but even I have always said that there were a couple of sounds no sample would ever be able to imitate successfully, and those were an acoustic guitar and a saxophone. “Event Horizon” and “Sorry” attempt to duplicate those sounds. And sorry they should be. Nothing shows up the limitations of the keyboard better.

So, here we are back in the sonic wallpaper department. The sad truth is that’s the middle range where a lot of CDs go. Not strong enough to have a hold on you, not so weak as to wash away in the night. Or to put it another way, it’s all very pretty but it doesn’t seem to mean much of anything. La de da.

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