Sunday, March 11, 2012

Album Review: Listening Mirror - Resting in Aspic

Album Rating: B+
Ambiance... If I were to make the cardinal sin of comparing music to art - which, I assure you, I would never even dream of doing - I would liken ambient music to just one curved line on an otherwise blank canvas. The point of it all? To ask that question would be to miss the... idea. Unlike conventional music, ambient does not try to convey a particular message, nor does the message even matter. No, think of an ambient piece as the very beginning on a journey to a point; any point. What matters is how your mind travels from that starting position; which sound-tinted thought it springs to. It’s music for thinking men with time on their hands to think, and this is precisely the rut that Listening Mirror nestles into.

Resting in Aspic is a project spanning two years of Jeff Stonehouse and Kate Tustain’s professional lives. The separate tracks, collating to around an hour of playing time, were recorded independently, although the tone remains constant. In many ways the album harks back to the early days of Brian Eno, Klaus Schulze and Robert Rich in that it’s incredibly minimalistic, even for ambient music. Drones spread out across each piece like muddy water, disturbed only by ripples of piano, angelic sighs and field recordings. “The Leechpool”, as an example, is constructed around the sound of water running into a pond, with piano notes echoing into the cavernous space around it until they flow into the surrounding drone. Getting used to it takes time, of course, but after slipping through the membrane it’s like you really are resting in aspic, with all the space and time to dream. It’s a challenging trick for an artist to pull off, but here Listening Mirror have succeeded fantastically.

The true beauty of Resting in Aspic shows itself subtly. Nature is often played off against human interaction: where the piano may intertwine with bird song in one track, it’s distorted and quietened by traffic in the next. The idea behind this is obvious, but when the music then plays off against the sound of laughing children, the idea is complicated. Similarly, the adaptation of samples extrapolates to impossibly broad questions. The cry of a crow in “Venice Boxhead”, already a motif of horror and the unnatural, is given an ever-so-slight metallic twinge. The result is something that remains quiet and small, yet utterly disturbing. It’s something that’s so easily ignored when you first cross it, but every time it’s heard it becomes more wretched and powerful. This is how Resting in Aspic works.

Approaching Resting in Aspic and expecting it to change your life will leave you disappointed. The album doesn’t offer up much that can be heard elsewhere, but these days such a wonderfully crafted piece of pure ambiance is a rare thing to behold. It’s something to interpret and explore, though at the same time remaining short enough for you to do quickly. And from an artist so modest and understated, it’s very hard to pass over.


1. Outside Heaven
2. The Leechpool
3. The Organist
4. Falling Under
5. Without Saying Goodbye
6. Venice Boxhead
7. Wet Roads

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