Fractal Mirror – Strange Attractors

Strange Attractors by Fractal Mirror

Fractal Mirror is a dream come true for two Dutchmen, Ed Van Haagen and Leo Koperdraat. Amazed in the eighties by the burgeoning darkwave of the 4AD label and the renaissance of progressive rock in the shape of neo-prog, the 2 lads aimed at blending both sensibilities back then. Their project didn’t see the light, but the two friends didn’t lose hope, as, some 25 years later, in 2012, they decided to found Fractal Mirror, together with a drummer from the USA, Frank Urbaniak. The result is satisfying and stands up to the expectations.

Further on, and just as in the lyrics to “insects”, I will “dissect and cut” the album to get a glimpse of the music.

On a vocal standpoint, the voice is low, akin to Lou Reed or, to stay with the 4AD label, David Sylvan or Brendan Perry of Dead Can Dance. At times, like in the second half of “Brian’s song” they can remind ex-Byrds Gene Clark. The album is interspersed with a wide variety of keyboard sounds, providing different moods and colours to the music (aquatic rhodes, orchestral / cello-like / flute-like and choir-like mellotron, pensive Hammond organ, scintillating keyboards, melancholic piano). Buzzing menacing guitars like in the Wetton-era King Crimson, coexist with more upbeat guitar licks, whether acoustic or electric. The atmosphere can turn from cheerful (groovy on “what’s inside” with its Kit Watkins-like scintillating keyboards, overtly pop like in “leave me” with its acoustic guitar reminiscent of Jethro Tull at their folkiest, chanting keyboards and smooth Type O Negative-like choir, and “the chair” with its very sixties-influenced opening and elegant Prefab Sprout-like chorus) to melancholic (“fade away” with its “syllabed” chant and sad cello, the instrumental track “ending” with its programmed beat and haunting piano and choir) or mixing both feelings (“fading ghosts of yesterday” where mischievous flute-like mellotron and nonchalant drums alternate with slow-moving strings and just as slow Hammond, anxious choir and Fripp-like pleading guitar, “Brian’s song” with its straightforward rock overture contrasting with more pensive folk/country developments surrounded by sad mellotron/guitar interplay, the touching “insects” where implorations alternate with amazement, “raising the stakes” where the effervescence of instrumental breaks contrasts with the sadness of sung passages, the instrumental “various methods of hunting” where haunting keys – threatening like clouds obscuring skies – alternate¬† with an upbeat guitar/keyboard theme, taking over the theme of the marching drums concluding “insects”).

In a nutshell, Fractal Mirror have recorded with ‘Strange attractors’ an album full of contrasts where the sadness of eighties darkwave meets the energy of the revived progressive rock of the same era. The association works perfectly fine, peppered with elements of sixties pop and lush and varied keyboard sounds. Moreover, the atmospheres are beautifully crafted and give an overall “cozy” feel to the whole.

Tracklist:

1. What’s Inside (4:24)
2. The Fading Ghosts of Yesterday (4:31)
3. Brian’s Song (5:40)
4. Fade Away (4:47)
5. A Life in Darkness – Ending (2:54)
A Life in Darkness Suite (5 parts):
6. Insects (3:30)
7. Raising the Stakes (4:21)
8. Various Methods of Hunting (3:44)
9. Leave Me (3:10)
10. A Life in Darkness – The Chair (4:17)

Line-up:

* Ed Van Haagen – bass, keyboards and programming
* Leo Koperdraat – vocals, guitars, keyboards and lyrics
* Frank L. Urbaniak – drums, percussion and lyrics

With:
* Brian Watson – photographic art and lyrics
* Andre De Boer – video art

Links:

http://www.fractalmirror.net/

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