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19 January 2016

Gastr del Sol - 'Mirror Repair' (Drag City)

Mirror Repair is a really solid EP that was probably recorded around the same time as Crookt, Crackt or Fly but has a very different feel. There's a little of the acoustic guitar interplay, but a lot more piano, and a somewhat throwaway 'rock' piece ('Dictionary of Handwriting') which, despite it's thin construction, feels like a defiinitive example of the post-rock sound. 'Eight Corners' is the centrepiece, build around a slowly looping piano figure, which gains a bit of air each time round, lifting up and then almost drifting back to the ground before finding another gust of life. Grubbs intones some Chicago geography, which the usual take-it-or-leave-it impact, and the piece ambles along until some crazy, cracked (or crackt?) electronics chime in. It's like Smegma or the Nihilist Spasm Band dropped by to do some overdubs, and this is where O'Rourke uses whatever digital technology he was surely innovating (in 1994!) to its full potential. It's avant-garde as all fuck, and probably one of the band's highlights, sounding especially great at 45pm because there's so much space and clarity to the recording. I actually listened to the second half of this song twice just now, once through speakers and once through headphones. It's magic. The rest of the EP ain't shabby; the title track has the most vocalising and might even seem to be about something if you slow down to figure out the intention behind the lyrics (I never bother, though). 'Why Sleep' is built around that slowly unfolding spatial drone that mid-period Gastr does so well. Maybe this is nothing more than taking Varese/Xenakis techniques and introducing it to the post-rock set, but it's fucking stunning to listen to, and still sounds like new (or at least underexplored) horizons to me, two decades later.

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