Sunday, 13 October 2013

Glasser - Interiors


Cameron Mesirow likes to surprise; she basks in her listeners’ double-take from artist to sound, and back again. One thing I love about female musicians is the prowess, especially in pop-affiliated regions, is to break away from that littered philosophy that the classic stand-out-and-model stance still applies in female pop. Not many people like surprises in an unplanned context. Musically, they possess no middle grey of territory - the reaction is complete black or white; bad or good. But over the years, femininity has broken free from the shackles of gender and has come to rule quite favourably in corners of pop-approved sound that hardly cry for some iron-cast objectivity on what the female sound is. Mesirow’s Glasser alias feels (welcomingly) like proof of such change: music that removes itself from gender bias and prefers questioning the artistry and delivery, as opposed to the physicality and vex of decoration. If that is the case, Interiors - the follow-up to 2010's Rings - may well be a suggestion that Glasser’s next move, likes with investing in personal belief rather than the need to shallowly decorate or indeed bask in extravagance for security. 

Regardless of prediction, if there’s one association that likely rings true for Mesirow on her sophomore, it’s that the desire to wow the listener - regardless of gender - remains just as respected and just as sought-after. Even if the lack of playful experimenting with percussion might deter those who found solace on her debut, the Los Angeles singer-songwriter finds herself standing at the pivot in her career where if fear to take a risk is devoid, the time to proove it, is now. The theoretial risk in question, is the drastic shift to appliance of electronics and machines over traditional instrumentation, and while this shift is apparent from the word go, it's by no means an early symptom to a just-as-early blip in her musical endeavour. Shape defines this sharp left from where Glasser now presides in its bending sine-wave of synthesizers and sub-bass beats; Mesirow's vocals caught mid-drift between the music's foreign escapism so much so that it ends up sandwiching her a little too tightly in-between the mix. Musically however, there's already a difference in trajection about her sound - the displacement of electronics and the way the foreign of the synths come across dfinitely conjures a feeling of new ground being treaded both sonically, as well as instrumentally. And with that, there's some ground for intrigue already estbalished in what is a fairly less abundant and concrete atmosphere Glasser seems to suggest.

The reward then is a profound ease of which Mesirow fits her persona and musical traits into what feels like a transformed or perhaps distorted territory rather than something completely fresh or anew. And as if it were a new dress or piece of clothing, Glasser treats this mystery and alien-like immediacy of change with a commanding degree of control, and innocence that doesn't make its listener vent a sickening distate. On follower Design, Mesirow combats the flux with a stroke of vocal latency, as well as allowing interchange between expressive tone and distorting one's voice in and around the surreality the colourful synth hooks and rattling percussion highlight. But what really demands attention - and receives it by result - is how smooth and interlinked the transition to Landscape is so brilliantly architected. This delicate yet still kiddish joy Mesirow leads us in doesn't feel in anyway derogatory or contaminating to the aesthetic or aural sensation the electronics and earthly beats create - here matching up incredibly well together. Glasser's ambition and her delivery too fuel that distance amid a track that at times limits itself structurally amid its tiny amass of layers and components, yet still pulls off an infectuous nostalgic-like flair of youth and modesty that the electronics tend to allude to. This suggestion however is gifted further by not only the increasing saturate of colour and texture in her vocals and backing sounds, but too in Mesirow's confidence to not only shine, but stand firmly above the track's rather RnB-remnant production methods. 

Truth be told, there's a distinct Björk similarity in that it shares the Icelandia's eclectic playfulness with electronics in summoning an other-Worldly beauty or space (see Homogenic and more notably, Vespertine). Thankfully this similarity is just that: a reminder that doesn't relegate Glasser to being some copy-paste imitator. What works for Mesirow on the track Keam Theme especially, is her skill in summoning the dreamy openness of these fond electronic tones and beat patterns, and converting it into a desirable synth/dream-pop track coming straight out of the late 80's/early 90's that holds all of said genre's emotive benefits, but none of its potential effect-clotted hinderances. Even when the 'choral' sections find Mesirow dive-bombing into the listener's centre focus - drum beats professing a more deeper use of bass while synthesizers sail above like they're caught in the tail of a gale - she thankfully decides against smothering the piece with the need to invoke feeling through effects. Instead, it's left to this use of wooden, percussive textures, a suggestion of splashing coastal water and a suggestion of tropical displacement, to up the ante in the album's arching feeling of exploration and fond discovery thereafter. With Exposure, her appliance of synth pop continues, but with a more distinct - and quite charming - focus on sets of intriguing (if peculiar) sound textures and out-of-shot vocal tones that add to the track's adventurous personality.

While this may not be the first album in recent times - recent as in the last six months - to make use of atmosphere and a musical demographic to invoke a feeling of distance and mystery (Julianna Barwick's latest effort comes to mind), the benefits to Glasser's particular methods is that it brings together instrumental play in electronic sub-fields to act as the kind of musical vessel to move forward in. Forward into these paralleling fields of distorting hues and unfamiliar likeness on an emotional level. Dissect immediately stands as the moment in the discovery where uncovering a facet of a yonder World actually brings up something far more than consciousy specific than an idea, rather it's a reaction; an emotion, a narrative. Sharing both the narrative and contextual strength that Young Galaxy and Austra's vocalist demonstrated on their recent efforts, the track shows Glasser at her most human, and thus at her most vulnerably responsive. But in this, Mesirow provides a distinctive alternate to her song-writing that while still uses vibrant screens of synthesizer melodies and pulsating beats, feels more honest and personal. Her vocals do remain in that emotionally-sharp suggestion, 'Shackled to the window/Anything that opens/I'm giving myself to you'. But even with this less-independant offering as a vocalist, her use of tone and melody only goes to intensify the already-established distant scenery with which Glasser seems to present herself as having a deep connection to. Even if the occassional tip-toeing of string plucks or latter woodwind suggestions allude to a feeling of disconcern or interruption, the usage instead feels like a solace wih which Mesirow has found in this new-found other-world, rather than a feeling of isolation.

Unfortunately, isolation is one of the feelings that rubs off onto the listener in what are Glasser's supposedly designated 'interludes' in the form the three Window offerings. Where Window I earlier makes use of the album's interchange towards the presence of space at its most opportunistic of times, Window III (which is in fact the second of the three, and not the third bizarrely) comes off hand-drawn and more uncomfortably lying in the context of a darting structure that lacks a much-needed driving force. Window II, which swiftly follows, has an opposing problem whereby things feel too compacted - the low drone of Mesirow's voice too dominant and ever-present around the piece. So while Mesirow's more experimental, off-road journeying into the unknown sonically might not pay off in all respects, the perception to lead the listener into New Year's acute eye for sprawling notation and swirling atmosphere might not initially seem like the best idea. Instead, the effect is rather grin-composing - the scampering of sax and the rustling of percussion bringing a more lively charm to Glasser's overall sound, and too seemingly embracing the full extent to Mesirow's own previous investigation in mixing instrumentation with sound aesthetics. And with closer Divide, while Mesirow plays a risky game in letting her listener conclude that the track could slip into characture-level falsity or impersonation at anytime - oriental strings and mutating bass tones catalysing that danger - fortunately there's a degree of control vocally in ascerting the concept of discovery is still prevalent, even if the context may lie less with other-Worldly terrain and more just with foreign lands and culture.

Even with the less-desirable scrutiny that the latter efforts generate, Glasser manages to capitalize on her expanding of sound in a way that sounds evolutionary, but at the same time doesn't completely abandon the experimental tendencies that grabbed people's attention initially on her debut. In saying that, Interiors is a positive and (more importantly) optimistic step up and a thoroughly-rewarding listen to as much experience, as it is deserving of a listen from those both used to her sound, and those who are new to Cameron Mesirow's take on spacious electronics - both in an atmospheric sense as well as a structural one. While the tip of her experimentation doesn't always pay off or translate as well, when Glasser weighs in with a measure of pop charisma and production know-how, this album stands as one of the finer sophomore releases this year, and one very few will come away from without at least a minor degree of enjoyment. But the enjoyment - and indeed the fascination with Glasser's synthetic formula - is far higher than just of a minor tier. And while the point for females to strike a chord both vocally as well as musically has long been proven in the presence of a band outfit, Mesirow gladly strides the musical ground with charismatic independance and a convincing knowledge of aesthetical electronics. In the end, while the impact isn't entirely immersive or fractionally detailed, her discovery unto new sonic territory brings with it our definitive desire for involvement.
~Jordan

7.8

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