November 24, 2013

John Foxx & Robin Guthrie - Mirrorball (2009)

At the dawn of the 1980s, John Foxx released Metamatic, a landmark electro-pop album that fused the synth-dominated sound just then coming into vogue in the UK with some of the more avant-garde tendencies of kraut-rock. The result was nothing less than a techno-punk masterpiece. However, as the 1980s progressed, Foxx's albums became less and less distinguishable from the contemporary pop mainstream, and when In Mysterious Ways was released in October of 1985, it was virtually ignored by fans and press alike, causing Foxx to put his music career on hiatus. For the remainder of the 1980s and into the 1990s, Foxx (using his birth name Dennis Leigh) worked as a graphic designer, creating covers for well-known books such as Salman Rushdie's The Moor's Last Sigh, and even teaching graphic design at a university in Leeds. While the rise of acid-house, which Foxx correctly surmised was deeply influenced by his best early 1980s work, inspired him to briefly resurrect his music career as Nation 12, it would be his second return to music in the late 1990s that would yield, among other innovative recordings, his ambient masterpiece Cathedral Oceans, which he collaborated on with Louis Gordon, a Manchester musician who would become a collaborative presence on many of Foxx's future recording ventures.

Robin Guthrie with Jaguar in hand
In 2005, Foxx made some live appearances playing beside Robin Guthrie, whose spidery, cascading, effects-laden guitar-work created the dazzling soundscapes that, along with Elizabeth Fraser's unparalleled vocals, made The Cocteau Twins sound so distinctive. Borne out of these appearances was a collaborative project called Mirrorball, released in 2009, the sound of which is entirely what one might expect from these singular musicians who, at this point in their careers, might be better described as sound engineers. On standout track "Estrellita," Guthrie's familiar, squishy arpeggios provide a gorgeous backdrop to Foxx's lovely, seemingly improvised vocals. As I was listening to this song for the first time, I inevitably found myself wishing Guthrie would resurrect the Cocteaus in some form, though he has said repeatedly that he would see this as a regression musically- yah, whatever Robin. Another memorable track is "Spectroscope," which highlights Foxx's ghostly vocals, and provides them with an eerily dramatic yet musically spare backdrop. However, the highpoint of Mirrorball is "Sunshower." Here, Foxx's baritone vocals are a little more aggressive and meld beautifully with Guthrie's restrained guitar-work, creating a truly memorable track, which is always a feat on an ambient-inclined album. If I have a criticism of the album, it's the overly manicured production, which I realize is nearly synonymous with ambient works like this, but can occasionally push the aesthetic into new age territory. Nevertheless, well worth hearing.

Mirrorball (2009)
1. Mirrorball
2. My Life as an Echo
3. The Perfect Line
4. Spectroscope
5. Estrellita
6. Luminous
7. Sunshower
8. Ultramarine
9. Empire Skyline

Links in Comments


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  2. Replies
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  3. Sweet. Thanks Voixautre.

  4. GREAT !!!
    Many Thanks ;-)