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Mirror - Viking Burial for a Dead French Car

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Artist: Mirror

Album: Viking Burial for a Dead French Car

Label: Plinkity Plonk

Review date: Aug. 31, 2005

Similar to the practice of Egyptian entombment, Viking burials often included valued and practical objects alongside of the corpse to accompany his or her voyage through the afterlife. Another interesting feature of the Scandinavian burial practice had to do with bodies being interred on boats, or if this proved unfeasible, their gravestones would be boat-shaped, granting the deceased with eternal marine passage.

As with previous Mirror albums and Christophe Heemann’s work in general, Viking Burial for a Dead French Car is an explicitly cinematic and visually-oriented listening experience. Opening, languorous horns eulogize in fanfare, blurred by coralline reverb. Eventually, percussive metallic textures interrupt and bloom into a subtle crescendo, and things revert back to the rich drones Heemann is known for. This is not to downplay the role of Andrew Chalk, who often seems to provide the long tones that constitute Mirror’s primary sound; it’s just that Heemann is, perhaps reluctantly, a consummate leader that seems to add focus and concept to the players around him.

The music on this disc is yet another fascinating display of Heemann’s ability to produce an illusion (or mirror) of slow-paced musical naturalism by stitching together disparate excerpts. Here, there are substantial chunks taken from a performance in Scotland, several years old, intended as a soundtrack for Benjamin Christensen’s 1922 film Haxan: Witchcraft Through The Ages, a dark, faux-documentary made in Denmark. Yet, the music, as the title suggests, ultimately seems to come together with a different vision.

While Mirror often takes a bare-bones starting point, and through disorienting, extended pitches distort time and structure, Viking Burial almost begins amidst an already strange and dense listening experience.

This might have something to do with the epic, orchestral quality of the recording, described elsewhere as akin to some of Xenakis’ particularly swarming and opaque work. Yet, the repeating and shifting horn motifs and shimmering chromaticism are very reminiscent of Morton Feldman’s later orchestra pieces, and “Coptic Light” in particular seems to be a reference point. What’s striking here about Mirror is their ability to constantly create an evolving depth and texture. While it is very cinematic, as mentioned above, it’s also keenly spatial in a way that films very rarely, if ever, can invoke.

Mirror, while not obsessed with the surprise tactics of precursors like Mimir and H.N.A.S., still seems to retain a sense of awareness of the meaning of their musical gestures, an ability to blur the obvious weight that a given instrument or sound holds. There is a constant purposeful intent with all of Mirror’s projects and Viking Burial is an excellent example of this group at its most colorful.

By Matt Wellins

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