One the very first reviews to appear in the TPA CD reviews pages came from Dutch/American combo Fractal Mirror with the release of their debut album, Strange Attractors (13). An interesting mix of 80s era pop, similar era prog, along with a nod to the growing trend of melancholically charged music to invade the progressive fields.
The core line-up for the band’s follow-up outing remains the same with Ed van Haagen, Leo Koperdraat and Frank Urbaniak at the helm. Guest appearances include the returning guitars of Don Fast along with contributions from electronic keyboard guru Larry Fast and Echolyn’s Brett Kull who takes on co-production duties as well as adding background vocals, guitar and percussion throughout. Vocalist Jacque Varsalona features during several tracks and Charlotte Koperdraat returns for Lost In Clouds. Further contributions from The Hive Voices and the Stephanus Choir from Amsterdam.
Strange Attractors was a tricky album for me to review as it moved me out of my comfort zone, but as intimated a year ago the experience proved to be a positive one. So would the second album offer the same outcome? First thing to be noted is how all aspects of Fractal Mirror have come along leaps and bounds and there is a noticeable growth of confidence in both the writing, performance and with Brett Kull involved on the production and Larry Fast on the mastering the album is a giant leap forward in many respects.
This said Garden Of Ghosts retains many of those characteristics present on Strange Attractors and immediately recognisable in the album’s opening track, House Of Wishes. The album itself runs several common themes, one of which is the human life-cycle, a topic covered in House Of Wishes, and as we look back to the days of our youth. Musically there’s a strong beat, lush choired strings and the vocal melody enhanced with layers of rich backing vocals from Brett Kull. The theme of life continues in the album’s first single The Garden, which lyrically not only encompasses the album’s title, but captures life nearing the end of its journey:
“My bones feel like winter
All through the year”
A personal favourite and standout track from the album… The video features the sympathetic artwork of graphic artist Brian Watson (Plan a Art), who has collaborated with band throughout the project.
Another common element across the tracks is that of the universe, captured not only in the band’s videos but also in the track titles – Solar Flare, Orbital View, Event Horizon and Stars. And it is during Solar Flare and the atmospheric instrumental Solar Flare Reprise, that Fractal Mirror’s more proggy side emerges. The more muscular guitar and driving organ nicely contrast the spacey sound effects, whereas in Reprise, thematic guitars and synths rest on a rich bed of strings, augmented by atmospheric piano. The lyrically supple Event Horizon, despite its title, concentrates its subject matter on the aforementioned life cycle, dealing with loss and how it clouds the future. One of the CDs most catchy tunes, especially the chorus sections, lyrically engaging and some nifty acoustic and electric guitar from Messrs Kull and Fast.
Elsewhere The Phoenix continues to demonstrate the bands more sinewy prowess with the gutsy punctuated rhythm and tumbling drums that serve as the intro and musical links. Legacy brings back the Mellotron sounds that so enriched the first album, whilst Garden Of Ghosts‘ longest track, Stars, opens in stately and atmospheric fashion. The verse, chorus sections are trademark Fractal Mirror whereas the middle instrumental harks back to the epic A Life In Darkness from their previous album. Hats off to the band, along with Larry Fast, Brett Kull and Don Fast for the arrangement in the instrumental section – a finely orchestrated end to the album.
01. House Of Wishes (4:18)
02. The Phoenix (7:30)
03. Lost In Clouds (5:07)
04. Solar Flare (3:11)
05. The Hive (5:32)
06. Solar Flare Reprise (2:06)
07. The Garden (5:38)
08. Orbital View (8:15)
09. Event Horizon (5:29)
10. Legacy (5:52)
11. Stars (8:28)
Total Time – 64:02
Ed van Haagen – Bass, Keyboards & Sound Enhancements
Leo Koperdraat – Vocals, Keyboards & Guitar
Frank L Urbaniak – Drums & Percussion
Brett Kull – Acoustic & Electric Guitars & Background Vocals
Larry Fast – Mellotrons, Keyboards & Sequencers (11)
Don Fast – Sitar, Acoustic & Electric guitars (8, 9 & 11)
Jacque Varsalona – Background Vocals (3, 5, 8 & 10)
Charlotte Koperdraat – Background Vocals (3)
Record Label: Independent
Year Of Release: 2014
Garden Of Ghosts (2014)
Strange Attractors (2013)
The Fading Ghosts Of Yesterday [EP] (2013)