- Album Reviews

Fractal Mirror – Strange Attractors

I’m sure you will agree with me on this. I’ve come to the conclusion that there are emotions that music and only music is able of expressing, you know, that warm and immediate hunch that floods you by hearing a melody, the feeling that this song is reading you like a book, the heart rate going up and down to the sound of a scale, the goosebumps, the adrenaline, you can’t really express that with words…Strange Attractors, by Fractal Mirror is a good example of what I say, as it concentrates many messages and exact emotions, yet is so rich and groundbreaking, so fresh, so different and so right up my alley, that personally it gives me the feeling that the band read my mind as I slept and then made the album based on that. You just cannot be indifferent, no midpoint, you love it or hate it, and if you actually can stand indifferent it is only because a) You are an alien b) You have no heart or c) You are a heartless alien and I most probably don’t like you.

Fractal Mirror comes from the Netherlands, and as every Dutch band I know, they truly rock. But more than just a band, they are a sort of cooperation of artists from different fields, such as music, photography and video art. The origins of Fractal Mirror can be traced back to the mid-eighties when three friends from Amsterdam started to make music together, all of them influenced by pop and rock artists, bands from the famous 4AD label and artists like David Sylvian, IQ, Pendragon, and Pallas among others. The actual line up consists on Ed van Haagen on bass, keyboards and programming; Leo Koperdraat on guitars, keyboards, vocals and lyrics, and Frank L. Urbaniak on drum, percussions and lyrics. Andre de Boer did the video art for the first single of the album called  Fadind Ghosts of Yesterday , and the artist behind the cover and the photographic art is Brian Watson, who also wrote the lyrics for a song, and recently did all the booklet artwork  for Le Sacre du Travail by The Tangent.

Now, I was very intrigued by the band’s name so I did a little research. We call fractal to a neverending geometric pattern that is repeated at ever smaller scales to produce irregular shapes and surfaces that cannot be represented by classical geometry, therefore, I understand a fractal mirror as a distorted image symmetrically perfect, that can’t be drawn and has no end… sounds like something familiar? It’s music, duh… Seems that this bunch of talented musicians deeply understand music has limitless patterns and plans to reflect this blessed infinity in their music and lyrics. La diversity is overwhelming, and while their sound is clearly progressive, I do not intend by any means to label their music, especially because it is much more accessible than most progressive rock music, it is clear that the band is not trying to be politically correct and most important, they’re not afraid to jump from one genre to another to create the music they truly want to (claps). They are focusing on melody and making good songs instead of virtuosity and ostentatious exhibition of technique. Let’s make a deal, I give you the word “progressive”, you listen the album and add anything you want… Experimental? Sure! Melodic?  Authentic? Incredibly trippy? If you have a heart for music and a good ear, whatever you say will definitely fit it.

The flawless production is noticeable from What’s Inside, first track that sounds fresh as sea breeze, especially on the guitar field and the polished and fluent vocal, and although the tune is catchy and easy to digest, there is much to be discovered beneath the surface, so you’ll need more than one spin to really get it. Fading Ghosts of Yesterday wistfully explores the exchange of people in our lives, a sort of farewell song for those who were so important at some point and the progressively fade away for us, till they finally end up being ghosts. The Music is slow paced with a palpable and vivid imagery. Brian’s song, (which lyrics were written by Brian, surprisingly) is my personal favorite, as it becomes heavier and brings darker vocals and atmospheres, with some emotional bridges and a hypnotizing coral sound filling the space with its soft yet intense touch. Fade Away has some great drumwork and a sultry touch on Leo’s vocals.

Ending is an instrumental track, greatly dynamic, deep-toned and painfully enjoyable. Insects confront me again to that beautiful mixed feeling of deep sadness, despair and emotive obscurity. The dark yet so tender imagery, almost perfect instrumentation, the refreshing and irresistible vocals and deep meaningful lyrics make me drop my guard and realize I really like this album. The following songs Raising the Stakes and Various Methods of Hunting are irrefutable prove that Fractal Mirror is moody as a menopausal woman, and they reach a whole new level of intensity on the guitar field and haunting atmospheres. Leave Me is musically entertained and fresh, with some cool back up vocal harmonies and a catchy melody all along the song, and finally The Chair keeps on that warm feel of simplicity while it contradictorily showcases all the band’s instrumentation power with creativity and elegance.

How do these guys manage to sounds so accessible yet so critically hypnotizing? I have no clue, but of one thing I’m sure, Fractal Mirror has been sitting on a gold chair for a long time, but has finally found their moment to get up and use it. To the fans of Marillion deeply-moving tunes, IQ neo-progressive sound, Steven Wilson’s melancholy , Pink Floyd’s immediate access to nostalgia, even Beatles vocal harmonies, and mostly every legendary progressive experimental, alternative, pop, or/and rock band, Strange Attractors  should be a flawless hybrid discovery, highly recommended by yours truly for open minded fans of that limitless, fractal force called music.

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