'Australian sound artist Lawrence English is responsible for the existence of a daunting number of recordings. As the founder of the Room40 label, he curates contemporary ambient and experimental music by the likes of Mike Cooper, Ben Frost, Grouper, Tim Hecker, Greg Davis, Oren Ambarchi, and David Toop, and English makes the same kind of music he releases—in abundance. The selected discography on his website runs to more than 30 items. Diving in at random, you could luck into the glittering electro-acoustic miniatures of A Path Less Travelled, his collaboration with Japanese group Minamo, or the brightly mottled drone of A Colour for Autumn, one of English's most fully realized works by the traditional album standards of variety and cohesion.
But you could just as easily land in more of a niche taste, such as the fine but ascetic For/Not for John Cage or the crumbling edifice of organ chords on Lonely Women's Club. Save yourself some floundering, then, by starting with English's newest album, Wilderness of Mirrors. His first proper solo album since 2011's chorally inclined The Peregrine, it gins up infernos of harmonic distortion not unlike the heavier sides of Hecker and Frost. With a couple of minimalist exceptions—the winding gusts of "Guillotines and Kingmakers" hearken back to Cage, while low frequencies roil between ghost harmonies on "Wrapped in Skin"—this is a maximalist effort, smear-painted on an abyssal dynamic range in scintillating masses of slow-moving tone.
English has said that the album is named after a line from T.S. Eliot's poem "Gerontion" and is conceptually based on Cold War misinformation campaigns—which, sure, why not? If abstract music has to be about something, that'll do. More meaningfully, English saw killer shows by Swans, Earth, and My Bloody Valentine while recording the album and was inspired to pump up the volume and density of his music, which is felt right away on "The Liquid Casket", a giant exhalation of thickly flexing drones that soon ignites in a radioactive mushroom cloud. English is an experienced technician, and his saturation of stereo space and tonality never grows murky—the songs make distinct impressions, from the backwards suck of the title track, like a foghorn tolling over heavy traffic, to the slowly subsiding muffled concussions of "Another Body" and the ritualistic cadence of "Hapless Gatherer".
Consistently, English cannily weighs out sticky, swarming passages against smooth pearlescent lengths, often drawing one out of the other with magisterial patience. The compositions range from delicate to mighty, and always activate invigorating corporeal effects. Wilderness of Mirrors isn't groundbreaking in general, but it is new territory for the often-cerebral English, and he puts an engaging, commanding stamp on this style of ambient overdrive hymn.'