Ever caught a glimpse of yourself in a mirror and been startled for a split second due to the absence of recognition? The latest solo album from Mike Connelly (Wolf Eyes, Hair Police) positions the listener in those in-between moments with its themes of recognition and anxiety-driven disconnection. It’s a disconcerting and exquisitely grim soundwalk where shadows flicker and validity fails.
Each piece here slowly unfolds, piling on the suspense and terror until the odd compositional flicker of light appears. It doesn’t take long though before the shade returns and penetrates these sparser, more open sections. As soon as the music becomes more comfortable in its brief moments of repetition, the sound starts to decay, as on opener “A-1″, where haunting piano serves to transform and distort the personality of the piece while also introducing the second composition. These cunning compositional tricks are deftly employed throughout making it a thoroughly engaging whole.
Leszek Jankowsi, who composed soundtracks for some of the finest Quay Brothers films, is a direct point of reference here. US filmmaker David Lynch also springs to mind and artists such as Svarte Greiner, Kreng and Xela craft similarly suspenseful and horrific soundscapes. But what makes this record so thrilling is the way no instrument ever outstays its welcome. A wide variety of electronic and acoustic timbres (samples, plucked strings, contact microphone recordings) are employed to highlight dark corners and create genuine tension, but things never get cluttered, despite the occasional bellicose sonic tactic.
It’s in the lengthier context of the second side’s sixteen-minute piece that Connelly’s skills are best demonstrated. Here his slow sculpting of textures, his weaving together of synthetic and organic tones to gradually reveal the album’s true (and depraved) inner core are beautifully offset by upper register piano tinkle and a submerged female voice, and are reminiscent of The Caretaker during his finest moments. It’s a dimly lit journey and you may occasionally yearn for the light switch, but the ominous atmospheres never quite strangle, and as the title indicates, there is brightness just around the corner.