Proof the vast desert offers an opportunity to do more than die from dehydration, scorpion bites and the occasional drug deal gone wrong, Mirror Travel’s 2013 self-titled debut makes the case for power, melody and beauty blossoming from a spare setting.
Recorded in the West Texas desert outpost (have heard it’s lovely) of Marfa over a two-week period, the Austin-based trio lays claim to a focused, fuzzy and sonically hypnotic sound demanding of repeat listens and your SXSW or –coming in May– West Coast attendance. I’m looking at you Seattle, Portland, SF, LA and elsewhere.
Following an instrumental opener ‘Sands’ that would be right at home on Brian Eno’s Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks, Lauren Green’s warm and authoritative vocals offer a compelling weight to the album’s songs –doubling often times as fourth instrument, wielding and punctuating the songs with the kinds of lilts and coos central to the psychedelic heyday of the Cocteau Twins.
But this music ain’t the Cocteau Twins, it’s Mirror Travel, y’all. A band that’s managed to carve out a sound that takes a page from the best parts of the golden age of modern Psychedelia and/or the 4AD and Rough Trade vibe without being the least bit derivative, earning them a spot at the three-day Austin Psych Fest in early May before embarking on a two-week tour.
The band’s ‘In Dreams/For Summer’ recalls the warm psychedelic grooves worn by Starfish and earlier-era songs by The Church. ‘Mexico’ is nothing less than a two-minute Russian nesting doll revealing a vocal hook buried inside a guitar hook that’s nestled in some other hooks and well, you can just plain forget about wanting to listen to any other song for the rest of the day after that.
Taken together with a driving rhythm section that is especially compelling live, all of these attributes conspire to create ‘Stoner’ –as heard on the Syfy Channel’s Being Human and on repeat in my earphones– is also the best local set closer I’ve heard in a year of haunting the town’s many venues.
It’s a slow building crunchy melodic joy, peppered with weapons-grade infectious vocal countermelodies and a killer beat, followed by an explosive punch line. What more do you need?
(Editor’s Note: Mirror Travel play a bunch of times during SXSW this month. Check their show calendar for details.)
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