Rating: 2.9/5.0

Label: True Panther Sounds

Glasser, the project of a young lady named Cameron Mesirow, comes to us emblematic of the kind of artists the digital revolution of the last decade made possible. Mesirow, born in Boston and having grown up in the Bay Area, has made no bones about her love for Apple’s Garage Band and her music’s birth from it. In more than just her embrace of the software, Mesirow vaguely reminds me of an early ’80s Peter Gabriel, seen in an interview on YouTube, eager to show off to reporters his mastery of the then-cutting edge, then-extremely expensive Fairlight CMI synth, though this is not where the similarities end. On the most interesting tracks of debut Glasser’s debut full-length, Ring, Mesirow manages to create synthesized soundscapes as involving and chilly as prime ’80s Gabriel and even manages his trick of taking non-Western musical cues for weaving into an ethereal tapestry that transcends what it could be in lesser hands: postmodern pastiche songs, straining to sound culturally informed or quirky.

Opening song “Apply” lurches forward with a beaucoup of looped percussion and deep-frequencied synth, before Mesirow opines,”If the walls were too thin/ You would break right in.” And there’s where Mesirow, her vocals sounding like something in between Beth Orton and Joni Mitchell, breaks through to us; I’m unable to tell whether it’s a loop or not, but instead of a chorus, she opts for a repeated, tiny vocal squeal (“ah ah ah ah ah ah“) repeated over and over. Following this is “Home,” whose percussion comes in the form of multi-tracked handclaps. Between the various vocal tracks on the song, an insidiously small three or four-note, weighty xylophone riff pounds again and again, proceeding, then following through Mesirow’s triumphant soaring synth chorus. As though to roll things back a little, “Glad” is next, a sort of female pop-vocalization of the kind of Orientalism Bowie and Eno explored in “Heroes”‘ “Moss Garden.” The real treat is when the saxes arrive at the end of the track; Mesirow triumphs in making them sound like they belong, stacked up next to the decidedly non-jazzy song.

It’s this attention to her synth instrumentation and earworms – borne not of interesting melodies, but rather of interesting, sonic details and quirk – that make these Ring’s standout songs; unfortunately, the LP comes front-loaded. While Mesirow does suspend reality long enough to make Ring a totally agreeable experience, it disappointingly becomes aural wallpaper soon after those first tracks. Songs like “Tremel” or “T” maintain a certain atmosphere, though there’s nothing to make you listen actively; like St. Vincent before her, Mesirow, at her best, has ideas that manifest in out-of-this-world sounds, yet she seems, so far, to lack songs that approach the listener or offer anything but passivity. Still, Ring’s best hints at bigger and better things, so keep your ears open.

by Chris Middleman

Key Tracks: Apply, Home

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