Flying Saucer Attack – Mirror

After two years of silence and time spent battling depression (see interview in Magnet), Dave Pearce’s Flying Saucer Attack has emerged from the darkness with a masterpiece. Often compared to My Bloody Valentine, previous recordings seemed to evolve along musical lines enveloping increasingly dense feedback and reverb filled soundscapes punctuated by Dave’s vocals floating (barely) above the haze. At times it sounded like someone was nearly smothering him. The last recording (1997’s New Lands) nearly dispensed with traditional song structure altogther (somewhat cryptically, Dave called it phase two of Flying Saucer Attack).
Fans of FSA were used to the signature collisions of near violent guitar dissonance and almost folk-styled “mumblings” that characterized early recordings (especially Rural Psychedelia and Further), but it was hard to imagine where the band could go with this strategy after New Lands. Pieced together over the two year interval and sporting an eye-catching cover that effectively evokes the swirling (but uncharacteristically well-defined) layers of synth, drum machine and distortion, Mirror sounds almost uplifting at times. Its much more complex and varied affair than anything FSA has done in the past, at times stripping away all of the feedback to reveal the organic, some would say “folk” roots that underly all the madness.
“Space 1999” starts the album off with (surprise!) white noise that quickly resolves itself into a shimmering off-kilter excursion that has Dave’s breathy vocals rambling over a mirage filled with synth, what might be the pluckings of a zither and swirling washes of distortion. A startling and very effective intro, signalling a key (and pervasive) element of Mirror (and where it diverges from its predecessors) in that it succeeds in actually balancing the multi-colored layers of sound and vocals. Following on its heels, “Suncatcher” (and “Tides”) reveal the essential core of FSA – both of these lovely songs dispense with all the electronica entirely, showcasing Dave’s ability to turn out a brilliant tune with just vocals and acoustic guitar. Fans of the band knew he was always a folk singer at heart, anyway! Rest assured he’s no wimp, however – immediately after the last fading, pastoral notes of “Tides” have swept away, “Chemicals” jolting, drum-machine-fueled density (complete with vocal distortion) crunches along mightily (revealing a new and interesting drum n’ bass influence). Where New Lands seemed at times stuck in an endless loop of droning noise, Mirror at times rockets forward at a breathtaking pace.
Opening up the second side, “Winter Song,” “River” and “Rise” continue to mine the territory etched out in “Space 1999” and “Chemicals” – speeding electronic drum powering along the spacey washes of synth, distortion and somewhat lilting vocals, while “Dust” rounds out the side on a quieter, more introspective note. One could almost imagine dancing to this stuff, and its not a bad thing at all. “Star City,” the final song, sounds like a tribute to early FSA, the drum beat is gone and we’re left with the giant, swirling dissonance that dominated previous releases. For those of you unfamiliar with FSA, Mirror is a fine starting point for exploring the band’s work – indeed it may be their best album yet.