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


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Music

The 10 Best Experimental Albums of 2015

Music of all kinds are tending toward a consciously experimental direction. Maybe we’re finally getting through to them.

Books

John Lewis, C.T. Vivian, and Their Fellow Freedom Riders Are Celebrated in 'Breach of Peace'

John Lewis and C.T. Vivian were titans of the Civil Rights struggle, but they are far from alone in fighting for change. Eric Etheridge's masterful then-and-now project, Breach of Peace, tells the stories of many of the Freedom Riders.

Music

Unwed Sailor's Johnathon Ford Discusses Their New Album and 20 Years of Music

Johnathon Ford has overseen Unwed Sailor for more than 20 years. The veteran musician shows no sign of letting up with the latest opus, Look Alive.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Jazz Trombonist Nick Finzer Creates a 'Cast of Characters'

Jazz trombonist Nick Finzer shines with his compositions on this mainstream jazz sextet release, Cast of Characters.

Music

Datura4 Travel Blues-Rock Roads on 'West Coast Highway Cosmic'

Australian rockers Datura4 take inspiration from the never-ending coastal landscape of their home country to deliver a well-grounded album between blues, hard rock, and psychedelia.

Books

Murder Is Most Factorial in 'Eighth Detective'

Mathematician Alex Pavesi's debut novel, The Eighth Detective, posits mathematical rules defining 'detective fiction'.

Music

Eyedress Sets Emotions Against Shoegaze Backdrops on 'Let's Skip to the Wedding'

Eyedress' Let's Skip to the Wedding is a jaggedly dreamy assemblage of sounds that's both temporally compact and imaginatively expansive, all wrapped in vintage shoegaze ephemera.

Film

Of Purges and Prescience: On David France's LGBTQ Documentary, 'Welcome to Chechnya'

The ongoing persecution of LGBTQ individuals in Chechnya, or anywhere in the world, should come as no surprise, or "amazement". It's a motif undergirding the history of civil society that certain people will always be identified for extermination.

Television

Padma Lakshmi's 'Taste the Nation' Questions What, Exactly, Is American Food

Can food alone undo centuries of anti-immigrant policies that are ingrained in the fabric of the American nation? Padma Lakshmi's Taste the Nation certainly tries.

Film

Performing Race in James Whale's 'Show Boat'

There's a song performed in James Whale's musical, Show Boat, wherein race is revealed as a set of variegated and contradictory performances, signals to others, a manner of being seen and a manner of remaining hidden, and it isn't "Old Man River".

Music

The Greyboy Allstars Rise Up to Help America Come Together with 'Como De Allstars'

If America could come together as one nation under a groove, Karl Denson & the Greyboy Allstars would be leading candidates of musical unity with their funky new album, Como De Allstars.

Music

The Beatles' 'Help!' Redefined How Personal Popular Music Could Be 55 Years Ago

Help! is the record on which the Beatles really started to investigate just how much they could get away with. The album was released 55 years ago this week, and it's the kick-off to our new "All Things Reconsidered" series.

Music

Porridge Radio's Mercury Prize-Nominated 'Every Bad' Is a Wonderful Epistemological Nightmare

With Every Bad, Porridge Radio seduce us with the vulnerability and existential confusion of Dana Margolin's deathly beautiful lyricism interweaved with alluring pop melodies.

Music

​​Beyoncé's 'Black Is King' Builds Identity From Afrofuturism

Beyoncé's Black Is King's reliance on Afrofuturism recuperates the film from Disney's clutches while reclaiming Black excellence.

Reading Pandemics

Colonial Pandemics and Indigenous Futurism in Louise Erdrich and Gerald Vizenor

From a non-Native perspective, COVID-19 may be experienced as an unexpected and unprecedented catastrophe. Yet from a Native perspective, this current catastrophe links to a longer history that is synonymous with European colonization.

Music

John Fullbright Salutes Leon Russell with "If the Shoe Fits" (premiere + interview)

John Fullbright and other Tulsa musicians decamped to Leon Russell's defunct studio for a four-day session that's a tribute to Dwight Twilley, Hoyt Axton, the Gap Band and more. Hear Fullbright's take on Russell's "If The Shoe Fits".

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.