Friday, March 30, 2012

Listening Mirror - Resting in Aspic (Hibernate, 2012)

Listening Mirror – Resting In Aspic
Hibernate 2012

U.K. based group Listening Mirror consists of Jeff Stonehouse and Kate Tustain who formed in early 2010. Resting In Aspic is a collection of selected pieces from previous releases that are now out of print. The material on the album is sourced from field recordings, acoustic guitar, percussive instruments, BC8 synth, Tustain’s vocals and piano.

“Outside Heaven” includes ambient field recording hiss among quiet synth drones softly wavering. The guitar enters playing an intermittent, melancholic melody really as gently as a guitar can get. The piano serves as a the second melodic instrument, mimicking the guitar and thus making it confusing as to whether it’s the guitar playing or the piano. It’s also somewhat hard to identify because volume-wise the drone and the ambient hiss are more in the forefront and louder than the slow, sporadic melodies. “The Leechpool” features running, trickling water and a bird chirp in the distance (I think there might have been a bird in the first song too). The drones are slightly more bass-y and have a more dramatic vibe. Wearing headphones I can hear this gentle panning action of a buzzing field recording that sounds like cicadas or a rain-stick. Whatever it is, it is really doing it for me for this song. There’s more piano melodies in the background, with the same kind of configuring as in the first song. And it works really quite effectively. The field recordings in this song make me feel like I’m in a rainforest and the melody serves as a kind of soundtrack to that imaginary environment.

“The Organist” is composed of thick, dense, and somewhat darker drones that have been heard up to now. Tustain’s vocals enter and they are some of the most ethereal and gentle that I have heard. They don’t sound like they are coming from her vocal cords! There is some serious diaphragm support going on I tell you. They’re wordless, long form chants, and she keeps repeating this short melody. She sounds like a guardian angel! “Falling Under”, consists of fluttering clicks that could really be either electronic or acoustic. There is also a noise that sounds like a waterfall but it is quite bass-y and filtered so it’s unidentifiable. “Without Saying Goodbye” incorporates dense layers of dissonant, oscillating drones that fade, overlap, and weave in and out. Similar to previous songs on the album, the drones have a dark and dramatic feeling. “Venice Boxhead” has a similar compositional configuration to what we heard earlier, with the piano in the background and the more ambient textures in the fore. This high-pitched electronic tone really makes the song unique and idiosyncratic, slowly shifting notes and gradually fading in and out and panning, almost unnoticeably. As a result, I would definitely recommend headphones for this album to really hear the subtleties. "Wet Roads" consists of more absolutely SURREAL vocals from Tustain, and this time around there are beautifully dubbed harmonies. In their wordless, droning style, the chord progression is more epic than before, and juxtaposed with the ambient, droning textures, it is quite a moving listen.

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