First of all, as this is a gorgeous gatefold 2-LP set, three words about vinyl and analogue: 1) they're 2) the 3) best. Secondly, it's a scientific, indisputable, audiophilic fact that analogue sound is superior to digital. I won't go into why (though loss of transient overtones is just one element), but if you know how to listen to signal, it becomes very evident without the validation of tweakers and their manias. To really frustrate the masses hating that fact, I'll also mention that hi-fi is superior to stereo. Heh-heh-heh!, that should set up howls and ululations from those knowing far less than they think they do.
Third, LP releases nowadays are frequently extremely well presented, usually in 180-gram vinyl, as this is, and with sturdy jackets, which Mirror Pool boasts in spades. Fourth, as versus jewel cases and other jokes, a well-wrought LP is a work of art, and Gerrard's release is indeed that. There are many other elements I could hit, but I'll spare the reader my dinosauric affinities and Byzantine aesthetics for the moment, getting to the heart of the matter, the music.
You will, I hope, recall Lisa Gerrard's name from Dead Can Dance, a band that was a 4AD label mainstay and blent diverse influences so well that it recalled Popol Vuh, Third Ear Band, and various more classically oriented proto-World ensembles of the 70s. As the years have waxed, she's grown ever more serious about her work and has here captured elements of The Victorian Philharmonic Orchestra and others to lay a rather diverse chambery recital agglomerate at our feet. Side one commences in a Dvorakian prelude leading into arabesqued singing, minaret encanting atop spires threatened by a moodily quiescent storm, human voice the sole shard of light as the heavens attempt laconically to break through beautifully drear wrack. 4AD, I hope I needn't emphasize, has never been noted as a Julie Andrews / Dick Van Dyke / My Boy Lollipop outfit—Byronic Romanticism, more like, with Mahler annotating.
The operatic aspects of Gerrard's efforts here are more undeniable than ever...and, please, do not think Verdi and such, as the West isn't the only culture that extrapolated long narrative on thematic extensions. There are, however, numerous areas in which counterposed modes spill over everywhere; thus, Handel's Largo fits perfectly, nor would De Machaut be disappointed in what has been set to terms. Next comes the prog bandwidth in a miasma of threnody and underlying aural architecture not dissimilar to what Jasun Martz erected in The Pillory, though Gerrard would have to drag in Univers Zero to inject the colorations and Magma-esque chaos Martz pens. Instead, she evidences a cool and measured beatification of the same tradition within a conventionality that constantly expands. Think of it this way, and more than metaphorically if you wish: Mirror Pool is the eye of an immense atmospheric tempest, not to mention a series of snapshots of a culture engulfed and bygone—and Pillory is the tempest whirling around it. The two never meet, they complement, and, if your aural affinities are broad enough, you know just what I mean.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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