When I was asked to write a review on my favourite ambient album I was stumped at first. What music do I listen to? Least of all in terms of genre. Midori Takada’s Through the Looking Glass album was first released in 1987, three years before I was born. I have to admit, I had no knowledge of it before its re-release in 2017; it was an underground release for many years. The legend is it resurfaced when an upload of the release was being pushed onto people’s playlists via the YouTube algorithms.
Through the Looking Glass opens with “Mr Henri Rousseau’s Dream,” a track that lives up to its name as it glides through a forest in an exotic yet homely place. The sounds of birdsong-like whistles surround and enrapture you, which is no surprise when you learn Takada creates a three-dimensional sound sculpture by carefully taking the distance between the microphone and each instrument into account. I felt a kinship with this track and the idea that it was a musical backing for an artwork and the idea of a journey through a painting with sounds.
I adore this quote from Takada: “Within the tracks, numbers are intertwined symbolically — they are fluid while the tempo is ever-changing. On the reverse side, all the melodies are overturned. Through this process, it is constructed and formulated into a system. As the structure of this music became more system-based, I tried to disengage it from any self-expression. That is why I named this album Through the Looking Glass. The reflection on the mirror seems to show something, but I did not want to indulge in that. I wanted rather to force discernment of my true self that was beyond the reflection.”
You can really hear this fluid intertwining on the second track, “Crossing.” Patterns change throughout the song; often from your own brain trying to find patterns, you find yourself toing and froing between the rhythms that are introduced and taken away. It’s interesting to read that Takada was freeing music from human emotion and allowing the sounds to have an othering from the artist. I love this idea but I cannot help but think that decision in itself is emblematic of human creativity. I believe most artists want to create something that is more than us mortal beings; suppositionally, it may be a way for us to feel we are leaving something that can last forever.
Lara Rix-Martin’s latest Meemo Comma LP, ‘Sleepmoss’, is due out through Planet Mu on October 25th. Check out its lead single and some of the producer’s previous work below, and a complete rundown of her Objects Limited imprint on Bandcamp.