It’s been three years since Lawrence English‘s last album (longer than our site has been around!), but the artist has remained in the public eye through his Room40 label and his live appearances. During this time, he’s grown interested in “the physicality of live music”, and Wilderness of Mirrors attempts to bring the experience to a home crowd. The music is meant not only to be heard, but to be felt, which can only happen if the volume is turned up; listeners, don’t be shy!
The title and cover are references to T.S. Eliot’s Gerontion, not an easy poem by any stretch of the imagination, nor a happy one. An old man “in a draughty house” looks back on his life, having lost all sense but imagination. He writes of history, religion, and the difficulty of forgiveness. “These with a thousand small deliberations … multiply variety in a wilderness of mirrors.” English is not old, but he’s old enough to have accumulated some wisdom, which he applies here like an understudy of Ecclesiastes. Wilderness of Mirrors is his question shouted into the abyss, which keeps looking back but seldom says anything. This abyss is the black hole of knowledge: the place that swallows facts, theories and opinions, yet never allows them to coalesce.
In contrast, Wilderness of Mirrors does coalesce, as vast layers and waves accumulate like logs at a bottleneck. The drones bundle into groups and battle for dominance, proclaiming their presence by increasing density and volume until they are noticed. One might hear these voices as cacophony – sound and fury, signifying nothing – or one might strain to hear a message writhing within. The pessimist may interpret this message as a confluence of signals, each drowning the other out like inflated politicians. The optimist may hear the voice of reason struggling to break through. Graceful harmonics and miniature melodies are present, parables in their own right. Those who listen only to listen may miss the intended subtleties while picking up nuances of their own. The sleight-of-hand: if one can glean messages in instrumental music, one may grow equipped to glean messages in sound: voices, oceans, trees, tones. Otherwise, the entire world becomes a rush of static. (Richard Allen)
Release date: 21 July (digital), 1 August (vinyl)