By: Jack Stein
Long a fertile breeding ground for diffuse, hazy ambient music (Stars of the Lid, Benoit Pioulard, early Deerhunter, et al.) that runs the gamut from brilliant to tepidly innocuous, Kranky Records has just struck pure auditory gold. The Chicago-based label recently unveiled a collaboration between two similarly haunting projects from the Pacific Northwest: Liz Harris’ Grouper (hailing from Portland, OR) and Jesy Fortino’s Tiny Vipers (of Seattle.) The pairing between Harris and Fortino makes perfect sense, one of those slap-your-forehead moments of incredulity as to why this didn’t happen sooner; both chanteuses spin webs of spectral, mostly acoustic beauty, building slow-moving sonic vistas that exude fragility, longing and tangible dread. While this writer has never been the biggest fan of either act individually (both can veer towards the aforementioned tepidity that the ambient genre so often is guilty of), together they are creating some of the most ethereally affecting music of this young year.
Going by the moniker Mirrorring, Harris and Fortino are set to release their debut LP Foreign Body on March 18th, and our first tantalizing glimpse of this project’s formidable potential lies in the sparse album opener “Fell Sound.” Bathed in warm drones evoking The Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid by their aforementioned labelmates, “Fell Sound” is a thing of quiet, embryonic beauty, churning patiently as Harris’ cooing vocals weave in and out of the mix.
The spine-tingling moment emerges when a single spindly guitar line arises halfway through, awaking you from the blissful waves of ambience and evoking in the listener a feeling of creeping unease. As the acoustic guitar spins circles around Harris’ intonations, you get the feeling that it bears the weighty emotional burden that the droning backdrop of the track only hints at. It’s telling us something; what that is remains unclear, and the ambiguity of its foreboding presence only adds to the song’s Iceberg Theory-esque appeal.
The true beauty of “Fell Sound” lies in the way that Harris & Fortino weave the minimal and the massive together in a patchwork of heaven sent harmony. As a native of the Pacific Northwest, listening to this track with eyes closed elicits the imagery that the fellow indigines in Mirrorring must have had in mind. The drones sound as monolithic as Mt. Rainier looming on the horizon; that twinkling guitar is reminiscent of the placid grey waters of Lake Union; the omnipresent sonic fog is not unlike that which shrouds the region in gorgeous obscurity. By melding this lucid sensation of place with a quiet, somber beauty that is all their own, the ladies of Mirrorring are crafting music to concurrently soundtrack the dawn, the dusk and our dreams.
Thanks to the bros over at GorillavsBear for the tip.