In a haze of overdriven guitar punctuated with a brittle vocal, we enter the title track from The Empty Mirror’s The Mere, an album brought to life by the band’s own Grant Huling some ten years after their initial formation. The lumbering grooves of this opening number are tempered under the weight of the bass-heavy mix, and as we shift into the horn-accented Goth of “All Stems (Ready to Fast-Forward Now),” the progressive nuances in the album’s construction start to appear in both the lyrics and the music. Vibrant chords are smothered in a gloomy polish that draws us closer to the immaculate centerpiece of the song; it’s cathartic, yearning chorus.
After cratering us with its sprawling celebration of darkness, “All Stems” gives way to “Keep it Real,” a brief intermission that primes us for the sophisticated swing of “Breakfast at Midnight,” which stands out as one of the more pop-centric compositions on the record. Even in its delightfully sleek framework, it transcends conventional parameters and exploits its searing bassline for every drop of emotion that it’s worth. A landslide of textures envelop the chorus, but they’re nothing compared to the swaggering urgency of what’s to come in the next track.
“Clownishness” assaults us with its rich vitality out of nowhere, screeching out of the silence that concludes “Breakfast at Midnight” and replacing its subtle radiance with a feverish agility that dramatically increases the tension in the music. We slow down again for “Thinking in Tongues,” falling into a psychedelic mist that was hinted at in the title track, but the angst-ridden energy of the previous song still lingers in the air around us. Were it not for the hypnotic strings here, we might not be as prepared for the exoticism awaiting us just around the approaching bend.
“Two Drink Minimum to Leave the Beach” is the most surreal moment in the whole of The Mere, and after a minute and a half or so of drifting in the ethers, it cohesively binds together and throttles us asunder with its bottomless low-end grit. The spacey string play of “Fatehandler (For an Insignificant Man)” sees us returning to familiar and firm grounds, but its swaying lyricism is deceptively straightforward. The Empty Mirror haven’t finished imparting their message from beyond the grave to us yet; everything that we’ve heard up until this point in the album has been a preamble to “Inedia (Naked Girl),” which brings The Mere to a close with a kaleidoscopic explosion of melodies fused together in a single tightly wound track.
As the roaring feedback crumbles into reverberating guitars that fade to black before us, The Empty Mirror’s so-called lost record comes to a stop, and we’re left to ponder the deeper meaning within its layers of enigmatic poetry and stealthy instrumental emotionality. I myself couldn’t be much more pleased with what Grant Huling has produced in this gorgeously appointed LP that lives up to everything The Empty Mirror were capable of during their highly extolled time running the underground. A poignant end to their journey, The Mere is an unparalleled piece of required listening for indie rock fans everywhere.