Mirror to Mirror – Body Moving Slowly
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Body Moving Slowly is the latest instalment in Preservation’s acclaimed Circa series. The series has had a bit of a makeover for 2012 with a bolder, brighter colour scheme and the ‘abstract alphabet’ used to determine the cover design made up of a grid of lines rather than the shapes and dashes used last year. Body Moving Slowly – the second full-length from Californian Alex Twomey – suits this design well, composed with an immediate, pop sensibility and frequent upbeat moments.
Leaving his synth-heavy sound to one side, Twomey works here with a variety instrumental sounds, notably piano, harp and percussion. The album roughly follows a slope down its forty-five minute running time from ambient pop to pop ambient. The first couple of tracks have a distinct dream pop feel with their strong pianos, washes of synth and persistent rhythms – all that’s missing is a breathy vocal line. As the album progresses these attributes begin to fade, the rhythms becoming less pronounced, the melodies less infectious. “Sleep Through School” is the first really abstract, formless track. Here it becomes obvious that Twomey is equally attentive to the textures of his compositions, layering effects over the instruments and more harmonies, chiming bells or behind them. The mood takes a dip as well, gradually retreating into solemn introspection.
The incorporation of abstract, textural qualities favoured by ambient fans alongside the rhythms and melodies of pop gives Mirror to Mirror a very individual sound. The crossover between ambient and pop isn’t entirely unexplored, and sure, Body Moving Slowly contains plenty of nods to the 60s and 80s that are the hallmark of the nostalgia wave of recent years, but Twomey never subordinates the memory of a decade to memories of himself. Neither does he subordinate his own creativity to his influences. In making music, or any art, it is impossible not to be influenced, and perhaps in an age of saturation the ability to confidently cross generic boundaries is one of the surest ways of finding some originality. You never get the feeling that, for example, the reverberating, staccato electric piano is being used for any other reason than that Twomey thought it needed to be. A thread of earnestness runs through all the different sounds of the album. There’s no self-reflexive wink amongst them, or montage or pastiche, just honest creativity. Whether it’s the brighter tones of the first few tracks or the melancholy that descends on parts of the second half, Twomey is committed to creating a personal sound world that conjures memories bitter and sweet, though we will never know exactly what they mean to the artist himself.
Body Moving Slowly would make a decent riposte to any of the typical accusations that ambient music is ‘out of touch’ or ‘static’. It would fit comfortably into the trends of much of today’s popular culture and is more active – in terms of development and variation – than plenty of music that graces the airwaves. Sometimes it’s good to be reminded of the closeness of experimental and mainstream, that many would like to ignore, and Mirror to Mirror deftly does just that.
- Matt Gilley for Fluid Radio