Lawrence English – Wilderness of Mirrors (Music Review)


These with a thousand small deliberations

Protract the profit of their chilled delirium,

Excite the membrane, when the sense has cooled,

With pungent sauces, multiply variety

In a wilderness of mirrors. What will the spider do,

Suspend its operations, will the weevil

Delay? De Bailhache, Fresca, Mrs. Cammel, whirled

Beyond the circuit of the shuddering Bear

In fractured atoms.

(taken from Gerontion by T.S. Eliot)

If the pleasures of drone have anything at all to offer the deep listener, then surely it is the promise of an immersion into an expanse without the safety net of the spiritual. Drone is always a free fall without a net, a stomach churning floating into an ever expanding nothingness that promises only the enormity of the present. For an addict such as myself, it is always fresh, always new, filled with the colours of the limitless, devoid of memory, hope or promise. For Lawrence English it is the conversation, the language of the immediate, soaking up the Now in its endless transformation. The Now is the event filled with the past and the future. We are always either remembering/repeating or planning/creating, stuffing the present with anything and everything we can do to avoid it. Even in the spiritual realms, our approach is that of the enthusiastic student pulsing with ambitions to “reach” another place. The present – the only world that does exist – is to be avoided at all costs, and here at the exhausted end of the enlightenment, it is the speed with which we avoid the present that has become the prevailing conversation in its annihilation. “Just fill me up with anything” is our cry, as we sprint toward a finish line we don’t believe in. As long as we tell ourselves its progress, who can say that it isn’t?


Lawrence English’s career is centred around the present and its relationship to field and memory in immediate sensory perception. These auditory examinations have surely become more essential than ever in the absence of a foundational truth to which we can make an appeal for our humanness. In Wilderness of Mirrors, English builds on a previous conversation, (his 2011 ode to J.A Baker’s novel, The Peregrine) working primarily from the duel platforms of T.S. Eliot’s language mash-up masterpiece Gerontion and the unrelenting profundity of sound-heavy performance acts such as Swans, Earth and My Bloody Valentine. Each track is a kernel of sound reflected in aural wilderness mirrors against itself – a process English describes as erasure through auditory burial. Each track becomes its own erotic self-examination as its reflection uses volume to unfold into an enormous present. There is something in the ambition of volume that encourages the erotic, a way of looking at the self beyond the mirrors reflection. These eight tracks are their own unique identities that meld and unite to forge a complete listening experience. Each track builds (or marches in the case of ‘Wilderness of Mirrors’) toward the white light centre of ‘Hapless Gatherer’, which evokes an impression of the muddled white at the coalescence of the light spectrum.

Still, inside all this is the voluminous cry of English himself, and a fear for the loss of a generous and compassionate human connection. When the present is expanded, enormous and sprawling in its fervor, the need to obliterate the terrifying Other vanishes. English’s eight tracks are eight continents, eight souls, eight separate symbiotic particles that exist in a forged newness teetering on the obliteration of the trappings of self-hood that come from a refusal of other identities. With no memory of the past, and no plan for the future, there is no need to annihilate, there are no threats, there is only the abyss. English’s cry is not that of the philosopher with a plan, it is the artists call to extend vision into the realms of the auditory expanse, abandoning – even for 39.09 minutes – the trappings of identity and the pervasive essentiality of the speed that steals our deep contemplation.

And who doesn’t want that?

Wilderness of Mirrors will be available from Room 40. Grab your copy here.

Read more about Lawrence English here.