?Serenity now??the oft quoted Seinfeld phrase could be the title for any number of Mirror albums. The sometimes duo, sometimes trio of minimal drone has been making ambient sound tunnels for seven years now from its home base in Germany. Mirror albums are environmental noise records that combine field recordings (in the live setting this might include rustling chairs and bodies as well as natural reverb; the performance space always becomes another instrument in Mirror?s instrumental arsenal) with minimal guitar feedback, bows, gongs and other instruments to painstakingly assemble a beautiful electro-acoustic whole.
The CD version of ?Still Valley? comes via the trio of Christoph Heemann, Andrew Chalk and Jim O?Rourke. It features a track not available on the LP version, though it?s not easy to actually discern much difference between it and the other two extended tracks. There are differences, of course, but all three tracks also perfectly compliment and flow into one another organically. The cover is a featureless green panel with a cut-out in one corner in the shape of a small cat, a fine symbol of Mirror?s wandering, noirish fascination with the melding of civilization and the wild. Barely visible through the cutout, a small town church steeple sits engulfed in a blanket of trees.
The ?Still Valley? of this record is rife with animation, the kind that can more be sensed and felt than seen. Little creatures scuttle across forest floors. Moths slowly fly towards blue lights. Water flows just out of sight, shifting up against ancient stones and piers or just coursing invisibly beneath green pastures and wooded enclaves. There are fascinating layers of detail and hidden meaning waiting to be revealed upon the peeling of this onion. It?s one of Mirror?s most melodic transmissions, but it also marks a slight difference in approach from previous outings. Rather than offer building feedback or barely there aural sketches, ?Still Valley? is more like a constant cycling flow of glowing liquid fascination with wobbling tones, electro sprinkles and other sparse rumbles occasionally punctuating the static glow. All together, it could be the soundtrack to dreams of shooting stars falling to the ground in phosphorescent streams or liquid alien realms populated by fantastic free-moving ectoplasmic beings. It all makes for a perfectly contained sound universe with dense connective tissues and lighter particles dancing in between.
The way the trio melds such alien drone and natural, everyday sound into a united symphonic whole is the magic of Mirror. Heemann is a fan of Andrei Tarkovsky, whose own film, ?The Mirror,? could be the source for the ensemble name. Tarkovsky?s films are noted for their extensive silent passages and hypnotic long takes, often revealing nature struck in the clash between order and chaos, predictability and indeterminacy. Mirror captures the grace, the beauty, the surprise, the alien nature of what we think we see but so easily take for granted. Mirror slows down and looks more closely. This reflection is simply brilliant. 9/10 -- Lee Jackson (28 June, 2006)