Proven: eclecticism and Commitment can coexist
Black Needle Noise is a project by John Fryer, better known for his production work with bands from labels 4AD, Rough Trade and Beggars Banquet. He has produced albums for groups such as Cocteau Twins, Depeche Mode and Nine Inch Nails, as well as his own music collective, This Mortal Coil, which he headed with 4AD founder Ivo Watts-Russell until 1991. Lost In Reflections is the second album to be released by Black Needle Noise since the project’s conception in 2016.
The album follows the same format as Black Needle Noise’s debut album, which is composed entirely of tracks that each feature different vocalists. Highlighting a variety of vocalists that hail from different styles is a tactic also previously utilized by Fryer and Ivo Watts-Russell on albums with This Mortal Coil. Resultantly, listeners can expect to hear a diverse range of songs running the gamut from ambient music, to ethereal dream-pop, to industrial alternative. Black Needle Noise successfully highlights juxtapositions between the very ends of its stylistic spectrum; yet the phenomenon listeners experience on Lost In Reflections is that there exists a remarkably cohesive quality to the album, despite drawing from such a wide spectrum. This oneness that pervades the 11 tracks can be attributed to Fryer’s signature aesthetic to which he is surely committed—the dark dreaminess that also notably characterizes the music of other 4AD artists whose work he has produced.
“Treasured Lies” is the first track on the album, featuring vocals and lyrics by artist Zialand. It sets a foundation for the following ten tracks built on mellifluous vocal harmonies and melancholic chords that unashamedly bleed into one another. While ethereal tracks, “Swimming Through Dreams,” with vocals by Mimi Page, and “And Nothing Remains,” featuring Ana Breton, place greater emphasis on ambience, tracks such as “She Stands on a Storm” and “A Shiver of Want,” featuring Andrea Kerr and Bill Leeb respectively, exhibit rhythmic structure and almost-ominous guitar distortion that is reminiscent of industrial and gothic qualities.
For the listener that places value on variegation across an album, Lost In Reflections certainly has something to offer. It’s refreshing in that each track holds something different—Fryer’s next move with each song can’t entirely be predicted. But it would definitely be a stretch to say that Black Needle Noise is doing anything new or novel over the course of Lost In Reflections. The album indisputably embodies Fryer’s dark aesthetic, however, it does remain well within the boundaries of ground he has already covered in previous releases.