In the olden days it was pretty much an imperative that a band had to be in the same place to record an album. Things are different in the Internet Age and for Fractal Mirror this is their third album and the singer and drummer have never even met! Strange times, but maybe not so surprising given the fact that two thirds of the band live in The Netherlands with drummer Frank Urbaniak residing in New Jersey, U.S.A.
Fractal Mirror have made great strides through their previous releases and Slow Burn 1 is testament to their progress. Their music is all about producing quality songs, not necessarily prog and often more akin to pop rock, and this is no bad thing as they clearly know how to pen a decent tune. The structuring and arrangements are also noteworthy as they help to polish the material and present it in the best light; having echolyn’s Brett Kull on hand, to produce, doesn’t hurt either!
From the off it is clear that time and care have been taken with Slow Burn 1. An atmospheric keyboard soaked intro draws the listener into the forthright Miracle. There’s an occasional keyboard figure that screams “Genesis” but this is a small part and overall the influences do not overbalance what Fractal Mirror are attempting to do. It’s a very nice song and Leo Koperdraat’s vocal works well. He may not be the most dynamic singer but has a nice tone and his relaxed and slightly distant approach suits the music, the laid back feel making it all seem effortless. Care is taken to keep the songs within Leo’s range and this works in the bands favour as he delivers Urbaniak’s well crafted lyrics.
Numbers sees Kull’s influence shine through in some excellent vocal harmonies, the instruments working well as a unit, all ending with a lovely bit of Mellotron. Floods is noteworthy, Leo doing well with the delicate melody, at times with only piano and acoustic guitar for support. Again, it is the arrangement that helps deliver the song to its best advantage and it all comes together beautifully in the second half. Upbeat and positive, electric piano is well used on Mist, while Enemies is probably the proggiest track here, the strings intro, organ and Mellotron making for an interesting listen.
Despite technology being pretty damn useful in bringing together the disparate parts from around the globe, the theme of Slow Burn 1 is a reflection on the disruption that it is triggering in today’s world through the mass of discussion and communication, and where this will all lead. This comes through in the downbeat words of Embers, beautifully delivered with the echolyn influences again coming through in the backing vocals. A New Wave edge filters into Fading which makes a nice change of feel and final track, Universal, is one of the most satisfying for me, full of Beatles influences and an easy going sing-a-long feel, the acoustic coda a beautiful way to finish.
The songs, all well written, are a nice listen that fit within an easily identifiable whole. If there is anything to criticise it’s the fact that it doesn’t stray too far from the central core of what Fractal Mirror do, but that’s just a matter of personal taste. The drive behind Fractal Mirror is to produce a rounded album of songs and if it weren’t for the sweeping keys and Mellotron additions then Fractal Mirror would not be readily considered prog. However, that is where the band choose to position themselves and Slow Burn 1 is an accomplished album of strong melodies but also definite depth, as such it works in the same zone as echolyn or Blackfield, for example.
The fact that the band has never been in the same room is not obvious from the finished product, thanks for this are no doubt due to Brett Kull who gives the whole a seamless warmth and a depth that bears repeated listening. The arrangements are impressive and these guys clearly know their stuff. Special mention should go to the artwork of Brian Watson which gives the packaging of Slow Burn, like the previous albums, a focus and creative rhythm.
These melodic sounds have a warmth that make for an easy listen. If you’re looking for heavy and angular then look elsewhere, but if your preference is for a mature sound filled with melody then check this one out. Don’t expect any smashing of boundaries but do expect a very well put together collection of songs, all of which work. A satisfying and enjoyable listen without the necessity for being taxing, which is after all what they set out to do.
01. Prelude (1:43)
02. Miracle (4:55)
03. Numbers (5:34)
04. V838 (6:46)
05. Floods (4:45)
06. Mist (4:45)
07. Enemies (5:19)
08. Embers (6:46)
09. Fading (5:54)
10. Artifacts (3:48)
11. Universal (8:27)
Total time – 58:42
Leo Koperdraat – Vocals, Guitars & Keyboards
Ed van Haagen – Bass, Keyboards, Percussion & Backing Vocals
Frank Urbaniak – Drums, Electronic & Acoustic Percussion & Lyrics
Brett Kull – Acoustic & Electric Guitars, Mandolin, Keyboards, Bass, Percussion & Vocals
Kenny Bissett Sr. – Vocals (track 11)
Leopold Blu Sky – Bass (track 11)
Kitty Diepstraten – Vocals (track 5)
Don Fast – 12-string Guitars (tracks 5 & 11)
Patrick Farrell – Bass (track 4) & Vocals (track 11)
Jason Himmelberger – Vocals (tracks 7 & 10)
Charlotte Koperdraat – Vocals (tracks 5 & 7)
Peter Swart – Lead Guitar (track 4)
Record Label: Third Contact / Synergy Music
Country of Origin: Netherlands/U.S.A.
Date Of Release: 18th March 2016