Lawrence English – A Mirror Holds The Sky (Room40)


“Once you step into the Amazon it prompts us (strongly) to refocus the perspective we hold of ourselves, of our ways of being, of our understandings and it (not so gently) reminds us that we are but one very minor function in an equation that extends in all directions across time, and space.”

It begins with a chime-like birdcall and an increasing buzz from insects.

At once it’s familiar and strange for anyone who has spent time in the bush, because the sounds evoke distantly related communities of cicadas.

The faraway growl of thunder, coupled with incessant insects, gives an impression of rising humidity.

Flies buzz past occasionally, as an unsettling murmur swirls in the distance and laps at the edges of the clearing that extends around the edges of your headphones.

There must be water nearby, as the sound of frogs croaking and waves slapping against wood give an uneven rhythm.

Some sort of bug seems to mock the frogs with a chatter that pushes their calls for a mate into the distance.

As ‘The Island’ approaches their croaks return, or maybe it’s the sound of a bird, because a strange sense of travel is evoked as the tracks fade in.

The regularity of that birdcall feels as though something is keeping track of our progress.

By the time the fourth track ‘The Shore’ arrives, so does a mosquito and a sense the day has quickly turned to dusk.

One bloodsucking insect slowly gives way to a chorus, before being swallowed by yet more frogs and the thunder returns like a placated mumble.

Looking over my notes and I wonder about the successive waves of frogs that passed by my ears.

It’s a strange sense of progress to hear different amphibious communities, each croaking circle seeming to reveal another stranger one.

I almost can’t hear the forest for their horny ribbits.

Then the thunder returns with something more to grumble about and the rain comes fading in and out again.

At first it doesn’t sound like a convincing approach for a shower but, as it leaves with a similar sense of being turned down, I realise this landscape is foreign to my ears.

The final track, an extended mix, feels like a return journey.

And as I wonder where I’ve wandered through during the first half of the album, I feel as though I’ve lost something in acclimatising to the acoustic ecology.

It’s like the strangeness has started to dissipate as it becomes familiar.

The insects no longer feel like they outnumber me and the birds have stopped taking bets on whether I’ll become lost.

The forest has begun to feel a lot smaller and that diminishing sense of wildness and mystery is a theft, stealing a space that was fertile for fearful imaginings.

It might be a sense of loss, solastalgia, but I’m left wondering if I’ll ever see what inspired this album.


About Author

Living in regional Australia led Jason Richardson to sample landscapes instead of records.