Mirrorring: Foreign Body

Emerging out of a songwriting session conducted by Liz Harris (aka Grouper) and Jesy Fortino (aka Tiny Vipers name) in Portland, Oregon, Foreign Body presents a six-song set of folk-oriented vocal-and-instrumental moodscaping. Though laid-back in feel, the recording is nevertheless powerful and entrancing. But be advised: no listener should come to the project expecting Foreign Body to sound like a carbon copy of last year's Grouper releases A I A : Alien Observer and A I A : Dream Loss (on Harris's own Yellow Electric label). Electronics do play a part on Foreign Body but restrainedly and often are deployed more as a production tool used to configure the acoustic and vocal elements into settings of introspection and drift. Having said that, the album does include a few settings where the electronic dimension is featured more prominently, such as during the second half of “Mine” and in the opener “Fell Sound,” which initially defines itself as a foggy blur until Harris's murmur and near-subliminal acoustic guitar strums emerge to humanize the song's abstract flow.

Elevated by its stark, haunting vocal melodies, “Silent from Above” offers the album's most unadulterated presentation of vocal folk music. Backed by little more than a single acoustic guitar, Harris and Fortino both sing, with (I believe) the latter taking the lead and the former providing harmonic counterpoint. “Drowning the Call,” which has to be one of the most soothing pieces of music ever recorded, floats serenely for seven blissful minutes, with a lighter-than-air wordless vocal occasionally rising above a gossamer cloud of electronic haze. An at-times impassioned vocal delivery, blurry electronics, and flickering guitar treatments lend the nine-minute “Mine” a psych-folk quality that's largely downplayed elsewhere. “Mirror of our Sleeping” ends the album in stripped-down form, with the vocals presented as a ghostly murmur and the instrumental backing little more than an ominous web of crackle and hum.

The textual details accompanying the release are modest in the extreme, so it's difficult to comment on the specific instrumentation used and to clarify who is singing when and where, though Harris's voice is, I think, the more ethereal of the two and thus fairly easy to identify. Even in the absence of such clarifying detail, Foreign Body impresses as a captivating outing that's refreshingly understated in both presentation and, at forty-two minutes, length.

March 2012