A portal to a softer world
The best music is transportive. A vehicle that carries you to the farthest corner of your consciousness. Every artists does this, or tries to do this, in their own little way, but few genres have taken this charge as seriously as post rock has. Most often found serving as actual movie soundtracks, post rock musicians and groups have gathered a reputation for creating music that is best listened to when staring out the window of a moving vehicle. Light Mirror, the latest album by Drowse, does little to shake this perception, but their innovative blend of noise, feedback, layered guitars and whispered vocals creates an inner life that is richer than it ought to be, and impresses for nearly its entire runtime.
When people discuss post rock, the topic of which influence-tree they belong to often comes up. Are they a part of the lengthy, no wave influenced style of late era Swans? The fierce emotional rollercoaster of Mogwai’s crescendocore? Or the eternal rise of GY!BE? Drowse manages to evade this classification by belonging to all of them. Their second track “Between Fence Posts” is plainly Mogwai influenced. Its cool, soft intro sets the table for some chaos later on, as more and more guitars layer into the production, though it never aims at the same blistering intensity of tracks like “Mogwai Fear Satan” instead trending more towards the mellower Happy Songs for Happy People. Opening track “Imposter Syndrome” sidesteps all of post rock by splashing about in the same waters as FLANCH, Autechre, and Tim Hecker. A strange world of static feedback and reverberated keyboard builds an atmosphere that is deeply uncomfortable. But by the third track they’ve moved into the realm of Pelican, their guitars crackling with ferocity before dipping back into hushed vocals.
With so many influences plainly on the sleeve of this record, it would be natural to find it disjointed. But instead of making songs that call to mind influences, it’s more separated into movements, with each track holding parts of the others towards the front and back. But regardless of the track, each one is startlingly emotional, and often calls to mind unexpected emotions. The intro of “A Song I Made In 2001 With My Friends” is uncomfortable and anxious. And the rest of the song is much the same, beautifully incorporating a modular synth to paint a portrait of unease. Eventually the final two songs, “Betty” and “Don’t Scratch the Wound” reclaim the static wash from the album opener, looping the record into a perfect circle.
If a portal to another state of mind is a hallmark of excellent music, then this record wonderfully accomplishes that goal. Each track is distinct without being disjointed, and emotional without being saccharine. While it’s doubtful that there will be many road trips that employ Light Mirror as background music, the album remains a powerful testament to the consciousness altering powers of good music and deserves acclaim as much as anything this year.