Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Gotye - Making Mirrors


Less than three months ago, I reviewed Wally De Becker's second solo-outing 'Like Drawing Blood' - calling it, in places, non-sensical, childish and rich. On this album, Gotye demonstrated a keen eye - and indeed, ear - on a wide variety of genres. A variety large enough to leave any form of genre tagging, an almost impossible task.

Five eager years later, De Becker returns with 'Making Mirrors'. Much like its predecessor, it maintains the variety of sound direction we've come to recognize with his work. However...though there still remains a degree of experimentation...this De Becker, this Gotye, this lesser-known Aussie has matured in such a way it almost seems illogical that both albums were made by the same guy.

The album's opening lines "dreamt of a doorway/that opened to everything/and I'm reaching towards it/drifting backwards" (which in fact constitute half of the overall lyrics) clearly show his mindset is far contrasting of that of a child, blurred horns setting the scene in little over a minute for what is to follow. 'Easy Way Out' - a short but sweet follow-on - though more energetic, still emphasizes his uncanny array of vocal addresses, verses soft and introverted, choruses meanwhile bellowing with extroverted cries of what is happening. Before you can even get used to the sudden change, the song is over...kaputt, finished. It ends just as it begins - sudden and without a sense of warning.

By now, we are already on the third track and the strumming of a quiet guitar - glockenspiel backing the low-pitch acoustic - makes no hesitation in making its presence made. Again, we are drawn straight into De Becker's state of mind, 'I told myself that you were right for me/but I felt so lonely in your company', the bittersweet memories of an ex-relationship somewhat passively conveyed against this simple but effective strumming. It's only when the chorus initiates - the song exploding to life - and we are greeted by the guest appearance of New Zealand-born singer Kimbra, that we begin to realize that this is an experience Gotye is trying, and quite uncomfortably, trying to recall. To put it straight, his heart is quite literally at the centre of this.

This is demonstrated further in 'Eyes Wide Open' and 'I Feel Better' - both displaying a raw anxious struggle between personal and musical conflicts. The former track, though is fantastic in its vocal build-up, the latter is quick, but most certainly successful, at pouring a wave of emotion over us right from the start. Never has De Becker sounded so grateful, so rightfully delighted at where he finds himself - having survived so much, it seems - it is amplified only by the thunderous marching of drums and wailing horns lifting his voice above the airwaves.

And this is what strikes such a chord, even by the half-way mark. Unlike his previous outing - which, though charming in its nature, lacked that final touch of individual experience and witness to the storm - this album is all about the history; the tales and the story-telling of the artist. No more is this about simple ideas and a just-as-simple innocence of the unknown. The album oozes in experience of the "know" rather, both via the music and the song-writer himself.

Hand-clapping, feet-tapping 'In Your Light' is as personal as you are going to get without crossing the border into depression country. Don't get me wrong, the positivity in this song is great, but it's the willingness to keep it going - to keep it alive and fresh with its quick and energetic guitar strums - that leaves it shining in the midst of a record some may mistake for self-indulgent and too personal for any kind of outside relation.

The childish innocence - and almost, insolence - of 'State of the Art' maintains Gotye as a serious-minded but still fun-at-heart artist. If anything, this is the Thanks For Your Time of 'Making Mirrors', De Becker's voice synthesized beyond recognition as sequenced drumbeats and buzzing-about organs leave this song leaning more on the jokish manner with its sarcastically-set lyrics and out-of-place instrumentation at times.

But if you thought the album had inverted on itself for the final movement of tracks, you'd be laughably wrong. 'Save Me', quite possibly De Becker's most heart-wrenchingly intermit song. Intermit, yet secretly calling out as if for help. It doesn't take a genius to work out the theme here is one of a grim manner from the lyrics: in the mornings/I was anxious/better just to stay in bed/don't want to fail myself again. Is this depression? Could this even be a lack of confidence and self-asteem? It speaks of both 'I' and 'you' yet there is no indication as to who exactly this was written for and about? But again, where De Becker leaves cryptic reasoning's for his concept, it is solidified together by an emotive blend of voice and music, that work as if in unison to support one another. He raises his voice, so does the music; he cries out a crucial message; the music delves deeper into personal identity.

It's a concept that runs thick through this album. Where in 'Like Drawing Blood' Gotye identifies his preference for no preference at all - simply outputting his subject and letting the mood lead the way, in 'Making Mirrors' he clearly amplifies these messages through his experience. The result only galvanizes itself onto a grand scale...and this is where we truly feel, over hear, the man's intensity in focus. Whatever goes through this Aussie's head, whether he's happy, sad, confused...even feeling the urge to be his silly little self (as we have clearly discovered on both records) it's definitely something spectral in its enormity and its content. 'Making Mirrors' then is Gotye not just the musician, but an individual...a man, a human-being. And with it, the almighty highs and the unprecedented lows that come with it.
~Jordan


9.4

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