Album Review : Graham Reznick’s ‘Glass Angles’

Have you ever gone into a dressing room with those large vanity mirrors set up so you can look at yourself in all conceivable angles? You know, so you can make sure you look top notch in those Jordache jeans? Or those knock off Italian boots that some soulless beauty wore on that TV show where people say empty things but look great saying them? Say you could move one of those mirrors just slightly inward so it faces one of the other mirrors. What you see is this endless line of you staring back at you. A million yous in a million dressing rooms, possibly in a million different worlds. Carbon copy reflections looking at you with the same look of confusion, empathy, and fear that you’re looking at them with. Then the existential crisis begins: Am I just a reflection, too?

When I was little my parents had a mirror on the back of the bathroom door, which was directly in line with the vanity mirror. I would often open the bathroom door just slightly so that angle would bend the reflection into that line of a million mes staring back at myself, all of us wearing the same Mork and Mindy pajamas. There was something both exhilarating and frightening about the prospect that I was located in all of those mirrored versions of my current reality.

This was probably the start of all my problems.

I don’t think Graham Reznick had a similar existential crisis in his parents’ bathroom, but his new album Glass Angles is inspired by that feeling of not knowing your surroundings. It’s about seeing what’s there, and maybe what’s hidden in just a slightly angled reflection. His vision is less about fear of the unknown than finding a spot to exist in it.

When Graham Reznick first moved to Los Angeles from being a New Yorker for 14 years it was a bit of a culture shock to him. He began learning Ableton software and using soft synths and would record during the day. At night he’d drive around L.A. and listen back to his music creations. This was the beginning of Glass Angles. He said he’d look in the rearview mirror of his car and see Los Angeles, but not the one he was getting to know and live in, but another Los Angeles.

“Holly Ridge” starts out on a decidedly upbeat vibe. It’s not the darker feel you’d think it would be coming from someone kind of rattled by the fish out of water scenario Reznick was going through. It’s all very 80s, but sort of this alternate universe 80s. “Highland Steel” has a menacing lean to it. Sort of like a cross between Herbie Hancock’s Future Shock and Harold Falertmeyer’s Fletch score mixed with something slightly sinister. Reznick has also created a feast for the ears here, with the stereo field being filled with wavering synths that run back and forth, left to right, trampling on your brain in the process. “Beverly’s Crop” is another dizzying affair. It has a late night drive kind of sound. I could imagine being slightly buzzed with the flickering lights of late night L.A. lighting my peripheral as I listen to this song. All the senses coming together giving the feeling of pseudo-enlightenment.

Glass Angles, more than any record I’ve heard in quite some time, works on many different tiers. The sound of it is one thing. There’s a nostalgia to the beats and synths that gives the songs a feeling that you’ve heard them before. But the mixing and production is like another instrument in itself. The songs seem to all-encompass you as you listen. You fall into this alternate L.A. that Reznick has soundtracked for us. It’s almost like this psychedelic noir score. The Long Goodbye on peyote. A musical landscape filled with tracing lights, bent constructions, and neon ghosts.

It’s not all alternate universes and mirrored worlds. “Onion Canyon” sounds like distant dreams and ocean sunsets, while “Mulwray Drive” has a hazy, half-awake feel to it. You can almost see clouds settling in over the boulevard of broken dreams as this plays on. Or maybe it’s just smog. “Whittier” is another track that distances itself from the harder electronic vibes that are on this record. I could hear this in some earlier Michael Mann work. “Sunset Lane”, “New Crescent”, and “Palm Freeze” bring the album to a close with an 80s pop lean, while still retaining a feeling that we’re not quite in Kansas, or New York, anymore.

Graham Reznick’s Glass Angles shows Reznick’s skills at sound design, but also as a unique voice in electronic music. He takes his skills in film and adapts them beautifully to this record. Reznick has built this alternate Los Angeles through ten tracks of wavering synths, psychedelic sound production, and a mood of dark noir. Glass Angles is deceptively unique and quietly brilliant.

Previous Album Review: Guided by Voices - Space Gun
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