Switched On – Neil Cowley: Hall Of Mirrors – Reflected (Mote)


reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

On its release in March, Neil Cowley’s Hall Of Mirrors album made a very strong impression, not least on Arcana – the verdict being ‘a heartfelt and inventive biography of his musical exploits to date’. The album focused on Cowley’s relationship with the piano, but now he hands it over to a carefully chosen set of collaborators for the remix treatment.

What’s the music like?

Cowley’s originals, beautiful and moving in their simplicity, are ripe for the remix treatment – and each of the ten remixers bring a respectful approach to the table, letting the originals speak for themselves, but each of them adding something new. Cowley himself remixes the last track, I Choose The Mountain, by which time the album’s raw material has worked its spell all over again.

Ben Lukas Boysen immerses Prayer in a few ambient clouds, the music floating slowly but surely like a plane crossing the sky. Berlin Nights introduces a few glitchy elements courtesy of Louf, with a dubby beat – a quality replicated by Jacana People for Souls Of The S-Bahn and applied with a bit more force to the bass end and a triple-time beat.

The Kilig remix of Circulation is an intimate, end of day moment, the conversational piano twinned with some quite busy but nicely worked beats. Kate Simko, meanwhile, takes Stand Amid The Roar to the Mediterranean poolside, in a fuzzy remix that Cowley’s old band Fragile State would have been very happy with. The fuzzy feeling continues into Seb Wildblood’s take on Just Above It All, with a lazy guitar, muted trumpet and dappled beats that give a bit more urgency to proceedings.

The Sad City remix of She Lives In Golden Sands has a lovely, windswept start before its amiable electronic chatter, and this moves on to Hector Plimmer’s thoughtful remake of Saudade, with some beautifully rich piano chords.

For the first time we hear a greater emphasis on the percussion in Otzeki’s remix of Tramlines, a dubby deep houser, then it’s back to a wider panorama for The Allegorist’s beatless encounter with Time Interrupted. Finally Cowley’s own work, I Choose The Mountain, takes an urgent beat but gets swept away in the heat haze.

Does it all work?

It does. These alternative versions work really well on their own but also make an album as carefully sequenced as the original Hall Of Mirrors. Cowley’s past as a member of Fragile State makes itself known more clearly in the execution of an album that would work perfectly as an accompaniment to sunset at Café Mambo, but it still keeps the intimacy of the original.

Is it recommended?

It is. The two Halls of Mirrors make ideal companions.



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