Wilderness of Mirrors is the most recent album from the prolific Australian ambient/drone composer Lawrence English. A haunting piece of work, the textural depth to English’s sound is at points simply phenomenal.
From the opener The Liquid Casket we’re met with a big swirling ball of sound, a static dark drone serving as a core for layers of static to dance around it in a melancholic gloom. The album flows fantastically from piece to piece, with the title track coming next, with a liquid calm ambience while dramatic pulses ebb through it.
There are a few weaker pieces which just don’t generate the same level of atmosphere and ultimately let the album down a little, and those are Guillotines and Kingmakers and Wrapped in Skin. But when the album is at it’s best it’s mindblowing – Another Body is one of the best pieces of music 2014 has to offer. A dense unsettling wall of thick static crackles along in a haze of distorted glory while soft tones float beautifully and ethereally over the top. The contrast between the textures is fantastic. Grounded by the heavy distortion the softer tones seem to be pulling you away, and as they come to the fore while the walls of static fade into the background it gives the sensation of an out of body experience, coming away from your own self into a state of blissful nothingness. It’s the best piece on the album, and one of the most enthralling pieces of ambient music of the year with it’s rich depth of textural brilliance.
Forgiving Noir is similarly brilliant with dense dark tones ebbing and flowing in a sea of noise, oscillating and swirling in a mesmerizing hypnotic fashion, while softer high pitched tones envelope them in a ghostly veil. Huge swells of bright synth drones emerge and swallow it all in a dense textural fog and the resultant wall of noise is beautiful.
Graceless Hunter shows a return to a more static dark drone with more airy ambience layered on top, building to a light climax, while the closer Helpless Gatherer is another dark textural journey, repetitive pulses sticking out against a fog of dark drones before building to a powerful climax of powerful rhythmic tones.
Overall when Wilderness of Mirrors is at it’s best such as on Another Body, Forgiving Noir and Liquid Casket it’s a lesson in textural drone that’s matched by very few artists – unfortunately some weaker tracks let down the package as a whole. But at it’s best it’s expressive and vivid as the genre gets.