Gotye
Making Mirrors


4.5
superb

Review

by Ladakh USER (2 Reviews)
September 20th, 2011 | 32 replies


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Australian wizard Wouter De Backer has created a diverse set of songs that is cohesive and accessible, yet rewarding for the serious musical aficionado. It is a fantastic achievement.

I am not sure about you, but I cringed the first time I heard, “Someone like you” by Adele, with its simplistic vocal line, over-earnest variations and soppy sentiments. These elements apparently make for a smash hit single though, and the Aussies in particular are lapping it up, with the song still in the ARIA top 10 after 24 Weeks. It spent a hefty portion of that time camped at number 1, but was broadsided around mid-August by the most unlikely of attacks.

The track begins with a bass playing a simple undulating two note rhythm, before a xylophone enters playing what is unmistakeably the tune to Baa-Baa Black Sheep, only in a slightly different key. Wouter De Backer (Wally to almost everyone who isn’t Belgian) then begins singing in a tuneful, yet somewhat pouty spoken word fashion about a previous relationship. He finishes two verses, then unleashes a shockingly impassioned diatribe against his former love for cutting him out of her life so cruelly. At this moment, he sounds like the reincarnation of Peter Gabriel (were said musician actually dead), his voice soaring and spitting out the words, and it is also at this moment that a mainstream star of astonishing potential is finally unleashed.

Somebody that I Used to Know is a phenomenon, not only due to its popularity in the land down under, but because it is so unusual for such an arty, leftfield piece of music to catch a public’s imagination so completely. The secret is that inside the arty textures what can only be described as the perfect pop song. This pattern persists through the rest of Making Mirrors, an album that The Vine perfectly summed up as, “wilfully strange yet shockingly accessible*.” This one man singer-songwriter from Victoria, Australia has created a masterpiece, which is all the more amazing due to the bewildering array of musical styles covered. The result of this is not confusion, but a curious process where one track after another become’s one’s favourite, as their beautiful intricacies reveal themselves at different rates over (inevitable) repeated listens.

After Somebody that I Used to Know, listeners could have their attention cornered by any number of other tracks. Eyes Wide open is one of the more immediately accessible, and is a great example of the combined brilliance of De Backers production and song writing. The song sounds quite conventional, with a galloping beat and echoing chords accompanying clear, high register vocals and a catchy chorus. Then one notices the misty traces of slide guitar that flicker in and out, adding colour and depth to the tune. One investigates further, and finds out that the strong echoing chords that provide the song’s backbone were actually made on the ‘Winton musical fence’, a wire fence situated in the town where Waltzing Mathilda was written, which can be batted and plucked like a musical instrument.

The album abounds in these intriguing samples, noises and effects, collected anywhere and everywhere by De Backer over the years. They are almost always deployed masterfully in ways that enrich the listening experience, and often sidle in and out without the listener initially noticing. When you add moments of simple but moving lyrical realism, like Eyes Wide Opens impassioned environmental pleas ( it’s like to stop consuming is to stop being human/And why'd I make a change if you won't?....we walk the plank with our eyes wide open), and song writing that judges movements and moods within songs to perfection, you wind up with a set of tracks that are very special indeed.

After the title tracks soothing intro, Easy Way Out starts the album off in style, anchored by a guitar hook straight out of the late 60s, and a beautiful and unexpected falsetto chorus showing further evidence of De Backers impressive vocal elasticity. It barely fills out two minutes, but its succinctness feels thought out and perfectly formed. After the aforementioned singles, Smoke and Mirrors puts De Backer’s day job as a drummer for The Basics in full view. His mastery of rhythm moves the song forward effortlessly, morphing from a simple snare shuffle with subtle maraca flavouring to a layered and engrossing tribal thump-fest to see the track out in dramatic fashion. His use of percussive instruments like the ringing electronic glockenspiel here also fits perfectly.

The genres keep coming thick and fast from this point on, starting with the convincing and upbeat motown stomp of I Feel Better, complete with airy orchestral backing and ringing live drums. You really do feel better after listening to it, and the high is maintained by the more conventional driving pop of In Your Light, with De Backer standing up tall to proclaim his love for the lucky recipient. Both these tunes take a little time to grow; not because of their complexities, but because it takes time to realise that their apparent simplicity masks yet more stellar song craft.

Then just when you think the pop sensibilities have taken over completely, you are hit with the delicious curveball of State of the art. It is a love song, but the object this time is a vintage Lowrey Cotillion synthesiser. Said synth is certainly put to good use in the track, along with portentous orchestral string flutters and a dizzying array of effects, which are carefully moulded into a mind bending reggae skank with muddy, vocoded vocals. The attention to detail is once again more than breathtaking, and one can only wonder at the care that went into creating the effects that mirror the lyrics every step of the way.

This care means that despite the extreme variations in the musical fare, there are no tracks that come across as failed experiments, as might be the case with similar albums. A quiet and slow track like Don’t worry we’ll be watching you remains engrossing, where anything less than perfect dynamics and execution would have sunk the song long before the addictive, Depeche Mode-esque synth pops up. The trip-hop vibe of Giving me a chance is similarly riveting, but this time as a result of a smoky and distant horn refrain, that interacts perfectly with the vocals and main instrumental parts, and also acts as the main hook to keep the song buzzing in your head long afterwards.

Save Me feels like a throwback to the pop singers of the 90s like Seal and John Secada, and the album finishes with the Bon Iver-like Bronte, both beautiful final entries that leave one enthralled and puzzled that one man has mastery over so many styles of music. Everything in this album, though, comes from De Backers very real love and appreciation for a huge variety of music, and I must say honestly that my musical knowledge and range is simply not up to the task of drawing out all his influences. They clearly stand as salutary homages to the music he loves and cherishes, and whether they are interpreted and executed correctly or not, they stand on their own as 12 superb achievements.

De Backers musical skill makes him a Prince for the modern age, and his technical wizardry compares favourably even to left field electronic geniuses like Plaid and Squarepusher, as well as numerous luminaries from many different genres. His own particular genius, though is to craft his diverse songs into an album that is cohesive and accessible, yet rewarding for the serious aficionado. It is an exhilarating and uplifting experience, and one that I would recommend for all.

*Wallen, D. (2011) ‘Gotye: Making Mirrors’ thevine.com.au
http://www.thevine.com.au/music/album-reviews/gotye-%27making-mirrors%2720110901.aspx, accessed 2nd September 2011


user ratings (298)
Chart.
3.6
great
other reviews of this album
Alex J. Carter (4)
An overall solid album, "Making Mirrors" is easily my favorite Gotye album....

Daniel Staader (5)
Making Mirrors proves to be Wally De Backer’s crowning glory; a creation with a perfect balance of...

rmill3r (3)
DeBacker gives pop a twist, but he's on the verge of losing the reins....


Comments:Add a Comment 
qwe3
September 20th 2011


21369 Comments


ya this is so good somebody that i used to know soty

Ladakh
September 20th 2011


6 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Too much to say about this brilliant album.

A 700 word summary is just not enough.

qwe3
September 20th 2011


21369 Comments


guy has such a great ear for melody

Ladakh
September 20th 2011


6 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

No doubt. The thing I had most trouble with here is thinking of artists to compare him to. Any ideas?

qwe3
September 20th 2011


21369 Comments


uh

kimbra maybe? haha. shes more jazzy

Nagrarok
September 20th 2011


8298 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Australian wizard Wouter De Backer


His parents must be Belgian because I'm pretty sure that is a Flemish name.

HBFS
September 20th 2011


1292 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

it is

i love state of the art, the video clip is great too

Digging: The Smith Street Band - Throw Me in the River

WhiteNoise
September 20th 2011


3244 Comments


I haven't given this a proper listen yet.

Somebody that I used to know is going fucking bonkers down here in Melbourne.

qwe3
September 20th 2011


21369 Comments



His parents must be Belgian because I'm pretty sure that is a Flemish name.


hes aus/belgian but australians tend to forget the belgian part

AtavanHalen
September 20th 2011


17927 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Atrocious review. Ugly to look at, overlong and poorly argued. Could barely make it past the third paragraph.

Ladakh
September 20th 2011


6 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

I was surprised that no-one had put a review up of this fantastic album yet. I would be interested to see how someone else approaches the review.

I agree it is a little overlong, but that is the level of detail I wanted to put into describing this fantastic piece. I suppose it is review for those who have really got into the album and wish to compare ideas.

I stand by my argument tho.

clercqie
Contributing Reviewer
September 20th 2011


6506 Comments


So this guy is apparently form Belgium and is extremely hyped around here...

I should check this out...

808muzik
September 25th 2011


972 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Somebody I Used To Know is amazing. Hopefully the rest of the album is as good. Digging now.

plane
Staff Reviewer
October 1st 2011


6099 Comments


I don't really care for "Somebody That I Used To Know" that much. The chorus is frustratingly subdued where it could take a few more cues from "Eyes Wide Open." The verses are really nice though. 3.5/5 on the album prob

Butkuiss
October 11th 2011


4249 Comments


Don't diss Adele. Just don't.

Digging: Musk Ox - Woodfall

Douglas
October 13th 2011


9174 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Album is yay

808muzik
October 13th 2011


972 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Can't get into anything past "Somebody That I Used To Know". The music isn't bad, just doesn't fit me.

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
November 25th 2011


23973 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

hmm this isn't what I was expecting it to be... not sure if I like it or not. It's pretty fun but it really doesn't feel like my thing. we'll see.

Digging: Taylor Swift - 1989

AutoRock
November 26th 2011


421 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Last two Songs are soooooo unbelievable. Bronte might crack my Top 5 of the Year. Save me is just about the best pop song of the year, maybe tied up with Midnight City. Album kicks ass overall, great great variety.

xfearbefore
December 18th 2011


1246 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"Somebody That I Used to Know" is so perfect. Serious contender for song of the year. Those choruses man, so epic.

Digging: Negative Approach - Tied Down



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2014 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Privacy Policy