Music

Mirrorring: Foreign Body

A collaboration between Grouper and Tiny Vipers, Foreign Body is tense and haunted, full of whispered melodies and dark washes of electronic noise.


Mirrorring

Foreign Body

Label: Kranky
US Release Date: 2012-03-20
UK Release Date: 2012-03-19
Amazon
iTunes

If there was an award for saddest-slowest-quietest abstract songwriter of the last five years, Jesy Fortino (better known as Tiny Vipers) and Liz Harris (better known as Grouper) would have to duke it out. But there is no such prize. Instead, Fortino and Harris have formed some sort of sad-slow-quiet abstract Dream Team, named it Mirrorring, and put out a record.

Foreign Body inches carefully forward like a slow exhale, but it's not relaxed, it's restrained. The record is tense and haunted, full of whispered melodies and dark washes of electronic noise. Harris's dark electronic ambience and Fortino's acoustic vulnerability blend so seamlessly that it's impossible to tell where Group ends and Tiny Vipers begins. The muted dissonance and introspective melodies recall Cat Power at her best.

"Fell Sound" opens the album with a uncanny electronic hum. Like the rise and fall of a wave, it drifts between two chords. It's in moments like this that it's easy to see why Fortino and Harris have garnered so much respect and acclaim -- few musicians have the ability to make just two slow chords this captivating for this long, and few have the patience to try. I also don't usually have the patience to listen when they do try, but there's something mysterious and compelling about Mirrorring that draws me in. A vocal melody, then an acoustic guitar, venture gingerly through the ambient tide, never rising about a murmur.

"Silent from Above" flips "Fell Sound" inside out, with voice and acoustic guitar leading the way, homey and wistful. The faint wash of a suspended cymbal and careful production lend texture. The song turns on a simple vocal melody, as Fortino and Harris echo and answer each other in chorus. It's the ghost of a folk song, or the folk song of a ghost.

The album's most impressive track is its ten-minute centerpiece "Cliffs". Acoustic guitar and electronic ambience cast chilling spires of sound. Every voice is so subtle, so austere, that it's difficult to comprehend the song's swelling intensity until an unsettling ringing overpowers the guitar and singing. Soon, however, the simple acoustic arpeggio that introduced the song returns alongside the haunting melody, bolder this time against the murky flood of noise. And then, the song breaks apart into deep drones and clattering echoes. The final two minutes buzz and whirr like the remenants of broken machines, and I don't know why, but my blood runs cold.

Out of this eerie quiet, the first note of "Drowning the Call" is startling, but the song is actually the album's calmest, drifting hazily through its seven minutes. There is something desolate about the song's calm though, the way it refuses to grow or move, a bleak fog that only makes sense after the destructive colossus of "Cliffs". "Mine" is the most vocal-anchored track, though the voices are still low in the swirling sound. The instruments creak like the wood of an old house while an distant pulse, a sort of chirping deep below the surface, swells in urgent horror.

"Mirror of Our Sleeping", the album's closing track, gives meaning to the collaboration's name, as unadorned vocals and a simple instrumental echo in the calm. This is the album's only track empty of hovering ambience; although the sounds are still laden with effects, you can make out every note played or sung. The reverb, the repetition, the warped pitches, all evoke moonlit reflections and refractions on the surface of some dark lake.

Foreign Body is stunningly beautiful, crafted with tremendous care and talent. Could we expect anything less from two musicians of the caliber of these two women? Although it's not explicitly "about" anything, the record is profoundly troubling -- spectral, pained and cryptic. There are moments here to take your breath away.

8

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image