Ani Glass’ MIRORES: Gareth Kent reviews the dreamy and kaleidoscopic debut solo album from the Cardiff-based electronic pop musician.
Ani Glass has been on the scene for several years now as a member of The Pipettes and Genie Queen with her 2017 EP, Ffrwydrad Tawel, being her first solo venture. MIRORES is Ani Glass’s debut album, and those past experiences have not only helped establish her as a talent but has also proved instrumental in seasoning her production skills resulting in a fantastical work of dreamy synth-pop.
It is a bewildering soundscape of electronics and enigmatic Welsh vocals that are both hazy and intimately serene. The lyrics are at times both temperamental and dark, while the harmonious vocal melodies, and electronic beats that fluctuate between gloomy and upbeat, work establish a pleasant juxtaposition between the two. The album’s concurrence between shades of light and dark is expertly invoked in the song ‘Ynys Araul’ (Serenity) with its well-defined pop sensibility, featuring a rhythmic melody in stark contrast to the melancholy tides of its lyrics:
Our footsteps echo spells as we march Sŵn y camau’n atsain swyn wrth droedio
Towards twilight gyda’r wawr
The river is grey and lifeless Yr afon tanom, llonydd, llwyd
The light too weak to guide us. A’r golau’n gysur gwag
Coiling through each track are looping synths, and layered upon each is glistening keys, shimmering pops, bells, intentionally obscure layers of distortion, and a spattering of samples liberally interspersed throughout the album. From television to the sound of traffic, people talking, and the, albeit barely perceptible, sounds of nature whispering between the seams.
Thematically, MIRORES is centred around the idea of movement and progress which functions as both a musical and literal journey that asks us what is lost in the name of progress, while simultaneously yielding itself to and celebrating in the symphony of the city. Throughout the album, the listener joins Glass as she traverses the various locations and soundscapes of the city.
From the opening, ‘Ballet of a Good City’ with its harmonious peaceful vocals and pulsing bass that is reminiscent of Vangelis’s excellent Blade Runner score, establishing a buoyant yet simultaneously uncertain start to the day. Followed by the hum of the busy streets in ‘Peirianwaith Perffaith’ (Perfect Machinery) where the cogs of the day are fully in motion shrewdly invoked through the machine vitality of a pulsating bassline. ‘Y Cerrynt’ (The Current) perhaps best illustrates the album’s thematic link to progress, and no doubt projects a mood that each of us is undoubtedly familiar with feeling at one point throughout the breakneck-paced first-quarter of the 21st century, ‘bound by the raging current’, wondering to ourselves how quickly ‘the decade passed’ us by.
There are some subtle shades of MIRORES’s previous songs that reverberate into the forthcoming tracks by synths and samples that echo each other. For example, a synth melody similar to what is heard in ‘Y Cerrynt’, but increasingly morose, slow and stripped back, repeats over the forthcoming track ‘Cariad’ (Love) in tune with its ethereal and nostalgia-inducing vocals, reminding us that the past is carried upon the back of progress.
Despite its emphasis on experimental soundscapes and melodies, however, MIRORES retains a pop mentality as its title track, ‘Mirores’, demonstrates in particular through its lively looping synths and enticing vocals. Meanwhile, ‘Cathedral in the Desert’ is the track that best highlights Glass’s impressive vocal range, with its low ranges coming across as guttural mechanical groans followed by the shifting and airy otherworldly highs of the track’s fun chorus melody.
Fans of Grimes, A Sunny Day in Glasgow, and Yeule are sure to find plenty to enjoy in MIRORES, from its enchanting vocals that work as an instrument unto themselves, through Glass’s impressive vocal range, laced over some exquisite dreamy synth-pop that is inspired by 1980s avant-garde producers. Overly relying on such simplified comparisons, however, would be a disservice to the craftwork that Glass has put on display here.
Through her years with the Pipettes and Genie Queen, Glass has learned much from her contemporaries, taken those skills and made it something wholly her own, resulting in a transcendental work of Welsh electronic music that showcases both mass appeal and artistic integrity. Ultimately, MIRORES proves to be an estimable work of electronic music. It is a variegated imagining of synth-pop music and Cardiff itself, with each track skilfully highlighting separate shards in the Welsh capital’s mosaic.
MIRORES by Ani Glass is Available Now by Recordiau Neb.
Gareth Kent is a regular contributor to Wales Arts Review.