Brett Naucke’s Mirror Ensemble marks a softly striking departure from the Chicago electronic musician’s recent output. Recorded in collaboration with fellow Windy City experimentalists Natalie Chami and Whitney Johnson – whose album as Damiana is one of this year’s most beguiling releases – its sound is sparse, haunting and cinematic. Compared to the modular overdrive of Naucke’s 2020 LP, EMS Hallucinations, or the chirruping squelches of his collaboration with Ryley Walker, this album feels like a pause for patient contemplation.
In just under four minutes, “Sleep With Your Windows Open” lays out a comfortable space to curl up inside. Wordless vocals hover above quiet creaks, shivering strings, and gently echoing piano for a sound blurring the distinctions between Grouper and Music For Airports. During the album’s recording, Naucke played scenes from Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1975 film Mirror as a touchpoint for the trio’s improvisations, before layering his own pre-composed passages over top.
“I remember he played one scene with rain, fire, people kind of moving in and out of the buildings,” recalls Johnson in the album’s press materials. “It’s probably 10 minutes, and there’s a convergence of so many elements.” Like the film that inspired it, Mirror Ensemble shuns traditional structures to send listeners into a mystical trance.
“‘Sleep With Your Windows’ open was the last song recorded for Mirror Ensemble just weeks before the lockdown of 2020,” explains Naucke in an emailed statement to Ears to Feed. “The composition follows the somber sense and eventual relaxation of letting go of something tangible. There are sporadic crescendos and words to follow, but lyrically we’re kept in the dark. Words to guide us but not to take literally.”
Brett Naucke’s Mirror Ensemble is now available to pre-order from American Dreams.