Flying Saucer Attack - Mirror

by Jeff Penczak Rating:5 Release Date:2017-04-14

Depressed and disillusioned with music after the disappointment of his previous release, the disjointed and disavowed New Lands, Flying Saucer Attack guitarist and, essentially, one man band Dave Pearce took a two year sabbatical, during which he barely lifted his guitar. Finding encouragement in the consoling words of legendary folkie Tom Rapp (of Pearls Before Swine) whom Pearce had met and befriended at the inaugural Terrastock Festival in Providence, Rhode Island in 1997 and who had also overcome writer’s block in the early ’70s, Pearce began work on a new album. The resulting Mirror was released in 2000, and, unlike with New Lands, Pearce was pleased with the results. He told Magnet magazine, “There's something I really like here! I dunno what happened this time. What I think I was trying to do before, I've done a bit ‘better.’ I mean ‘nearer’ to what I've been trying to do all along.” However, his old label head at VHF, which released his debut in 1994, wasn’t quite so sure. Bill Kellum told Magnet, “There's a couple of things on Mirror that have 'drum n' bass' style backing, but I think that the rhythms are just in service of the song rather than an attempt to make a 'techno' or 'electronic' record. I'm sure there will be some negative stuff in the reviews about that because the breaks are probably considered dated in the techno/electronic world¾where stuff that's been out for 2 weeks is already considered old news. Personally, I'd like to hear 'better' recordings from Dave, I'd like to clearly hear what he's doing rather than a low-fi facsimile….”

A closer look suggests the album falls somewhere in the middle. ‘Space (1999)’ will appeal to fans of his earlier super distorted noise tracks, opening as it does with an aircraft-like blast of cacophony. But then Pearce jettisons the supersonic engines in favor of a floating, almost ambient backing track over which he gently sings discernable (for the first time!) lyrics. ‘Suncatcher’ is even softer, a gorgeous acoustic gem that wafts around the room on gossamer wings and smoke rings. [Perhaps a grateful nod in the direction of Tom Rapp, who recorded a song/album entitled Sunforest back in 1973?]

The longest track, ‘Islands’ does descend into avant garde experimentalism with backwards guitars and electronic embellishment, but halfway through its eight minutes, you’ll be forgiven if you’ve succumbed to its hallucinogenic charms. ‘Tides’ returns to the idyllic atmosphere of ‘Suncatcher’, evincing a relaxed, Nick Drake/Bert Jansch influence, but then ‘Chemicals’ rears its ugly head and, frankly, Kellum is being too kind. Industrial noise a la Nine Inch Nails, Einstürzende Neubauten, and Ministry combines with earsplitting jolts of electricity from Lou Reed’s unlistenable Metal Machine Music to reinforce the old Buzzcocks’ adage, “Noise Annoys”. ‘Winter Song’, ‘Rivers’, and ‘Rise’ are even worse – nothing but the drum n bass techno beats that Kellum complained about and that only illustrate Pearce’s future doesn’t lie in EDM. And why Pearce ruined a perfectly lovely little acoustic ditty like ‘Dust’ by burying it under a boring drum loop is anyone’s guess.

So we have half an album that’s worth cherishing and half that invites frisbeeing it out the window. Following its release, Pearce pretty much disappeared for fifteen years, but returned in 2015 with a double album of fifteen untitled instrumentals. From the few I’ve heard, he seems to be returning to his Popul Vuh/ambient phase, which is an encouraging sign that he’s exorcised his techno demons.

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