Mirror To Mirror: Body Moving Slowly

Panabrite: The Baroque Atrium

Preservation's limited-edition Circa series returns with chapters three and four, each available in 300 copies and adorned by a Mark Gowing cover design.

The Baroque Atrium arrives fast on the heels of Illumination, Norm Chambers' recent Panabrite outing for Under The Spire. Like its predecessor, The Baroque Atrium is cosmic synthesizer music of a distinctively serene sort, but the second full-length album from the Seattle-based Chambers finds him adding a vivid pastoral dimension to his Panabrite sound. The unexpected appearance of an acoustic guitar strum at the start of “Capraia” makes the connection to prog's folkier side explicit, and the effect is so powerful one feels as if transported four decades into the past. The Baroque Atrium is interestingly conceived on structural grounds, too, given that all but one of its seven pieces are modest in length, the exception being the penultimate “Suite (for Winnie and Roxie),” a seventeen-minute epic that could be taken for a single-statement manifesto for the Panabrite project. In a number of settings, nature-based field recordings literally extend Chambers' synthesizer-heavy music into a pastoral realm that calls to mind the trippy work of ‘70s synth pioneers. That move is clearly evident from the album's first moments, specifically when bird chirps and radiant analog synthesizers lend “Humid Transmissions” a peaceful, prog-folk character, but receives its most thorough presentation in the suite, a wondrous tapestry of gently flowing character and softly shimmering radiance. Even when the material is wholly synthesizer-based, as is the case during “Interfrequencies,” “Departing,” and the especially entrancing closer “Infinite Passage,” Chambers creates a warm and inviting ambiance, and uses cycling patterns to lull the listener into a near-hypnotic state. All told, the recording's a lovely sampling of his Panabrite work and, best of all, manages to reference a classic earlier period without sounding in the least retrograde or dated.

Body Moving Slowly, the second full-length album from LA-based Alex Twomey under the Mirror To Mirror name, is a different animal altogether from The Baroque Atrium. In contrast to the latter's pastoral calm, Body Moving Slowly offers a resplendent exercise in high-energy radiance and dynamic uplift. While synthesizer remains a core instrument within the Mirror To Mirror universe, it's piano that resounds most determinedly within a palette that also includes harpsichord and percussion. A radiant explosion of chiming piano and synthesizer patterns gives the title track an exhilarating quality that contradicts the title. That semi-ecstatic character emerges in many of the album's other eleven pieces, though an undercurrent of melancholy is also present, too. That ponderous side of Mirror To Mirror's music comes to the fore during “Dream Too Hard,” though any residue of melancholy is quickly banished from memory the moment the vibrant dance rhythms and luscious scene-painting of “The Store” appear. Even so, that sombre dimension acts as a counterweight to the album's more exhilarating tracks, as happens during the billowing ambient swirl of “Drift Apart,” “All People in My Hand” and “Push Weight.” As ruminative as those settings might be, others like “Take a Day” and “Who's Left” reveal Twomey's gift for crafting keyboard-heavy arrangements that exude wonder and radiance, and there are times when his pieces even sound a tad reminiscent of the instrumental writing Brian Wilson brought to Smile.

September 2012