Album of the Day: Mind Over Mirrors, “Undying Color”

 

Though Jaime Fennelly is the sole figure behind the Mind Over Mirrors handle, years of performance projects in the Chicago experimental/improvisational music scene have revealed him to be a natural collaborator. The personnel that contributed to his latest LP, Undying Color, might be best described as a Chicago avant-garde dream team; their own achievements aside, each individual contributor is known as a long-standing ensemble member of the city’s interlocking musical community. Fennelly’s rotation through these circuits connected him with Haley Fohr (Circuit Des Yeux), Janet Beveridge Bean (Freakwater, Eleventh Dream Day), Jim Becker (Califone, Iron & Wine), Jon Mueller, Mike Weis (Zelienople) and Cooper Crain (Bitchin’ Bajas), all of whom are present here.

The seven compositions on Undying Color are anchored by Fennelly’s Indian pedal harmonium and synthesizer; the harmonium, especially, is preeminent across Fennelly’s discography. The device’s distinctly droning reeds have fascinated him to the extent that he has spent nearly 12 years bending, shifting and filtering it in veneration.

With Undying Color, Fennelly emerges with a sequence of pieces that interweave traditional European ceremonial forms with modern corollaries in experimental electronic and ambient directions. While opener “Restore & Slip” could be mistaken as a bagpipe-led Scottish battle hymn and “Gray Clearer” could be its consequent funeral march, Fennelly sounds positively German kosmiche on “Glossolaliac,” overlaying Becker’s fiddle and Fohr’s rhythmic murmurs on a bedrock of treated harmonium lines.

Fennelly’s twined interpretations of ancient and modern disciplines have been a signature of his Mind Over Mirrors project over the course of five albums, each one gaining greater clarity and prominence than the last. He furthers this course on Undying Color, broadening his range via collaboration and reconstructing classical concepts with a modern palette of sound.

—Joseph Darling

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