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John Foxx and Robin Guthrie: Mirrorball (2009) May 17, 2009

Posted by sjroby in Music.
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John Foxx and Robin Guthrie: Mirrorball

John Foxx and Robin Guthrie: Mirrorball

Having heard the albums Foxx and Guthrie recorded (separately) with ambient musician Harold Budd, I expected an instrumental album with layers of piano, synth, and Guthrie’s distinctive reverbed guitar sound. So it came as something of a surprise to hear Foxx singing on several songs on this album.

The end result is something like the Cocteau Twins’ album Victorialand crossed with Foxx’s Cathedral Oceans project. While this is the warmest, most melodic, most accessible of Foxx’s three albums so far this year, it’s not quite pop music. When Foxx sings, he draws, as he did on Cathedral Oceans, on the sound of traditional church music, going so far as to sing in something that sounds at times like Latin, Italian, or Spanish, but isn’t. It’s like the invented language the Cocteau Twins’ Liz Fraser often used, and it adds an evocative, distant sense of mystery even to songs like “Estrellita,” the song that stands out as the one most likely to appeal to people who’ve never heard of Foxx or Guthrie.

Guthrie’s guitar playing and sound have always evoked descriptions like atmospheric or ethereal, and that’s certainly the case here. He provides his usual restrained and delicate touch, playing simple guitar lines with plenty of reverb, creating a paradoxically austere yet full sound. Foxx’s vocals work similarly, usually being treated with a bit of echo. Some songs add acoustic guitar, piano, or unobtrusive programmed percussion. There’s an emotional weight to the album; it’s not dry or abstract (unlike some of the D’Agostino/Foxx/Jansen album earlier this year). The words may not tell you what to feel, but you’ll find your own appropriate reactions. This is beautiful music.

You can see a video for “Estrellita” on Foxx’s Quiet Man blog. If you like it and order the album from Foxx’s preferred retailer, Townsend Records, you’ll get a download link for an exclusive extended version of one of the songs.

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