Through a Glass, But Not So Darkly: Fractal Mirror

Art by Brian Watson.  Courtesy of Fractal Mirror and Watson.
Art by Brian Watson. Courtesy of Fractal Mirror and Watson.

In one of his most famous books, The Everlasting Man, G.K. Chesterton noted that men (persons; let’s not be sexist!) never come together merely by mutual consent for some advantage or personal gain, at least in the beginning.  Long-term societies–civilizations–do not arise out of some abstract compact in which every person agrees to help every other person.

Instead, society–and, hence, civilization–arises when two or more persons find themselves as brothers (sisters, too!) in arms, defending what they believe sacred.  Once they recognize they’re each fighting for the same thing, they trust one another, and society is born.

Call it the romantic in me, but Chesterton’s origin story is a lot of more compelling than, say, John Locke’s.

What does this have to do with Fractal Mirror, you might very well be asking?  Everything.

As many readers of progarchy know, this site arrived in the world out of an intense love for Big Big Train and a desire to let others know about Greg, David, and co.

Not surprisingly, our progarchists have found that we actually really love all kinds of music, especially when it apprehends or reaches toward the beautiful.  Not just BBT, but Cosmograf, Talk Talk, The Reasoning, Cailyn, Kingbathmat, TFATD/Matt Stevens, Ayreon, The Tangent, 3RDegree, Gazpacho, Neal Morse, Transatlantic, The Flower Kings, Nosound, Oceansize, Riverside, Rush, Spock’s Beard, Sanguine Hum, Glass Hammer, and the list goes on.

Some folks love prog for the innovations, and we progarchists (speaking broadly and a bit presumptuously) generally see the innovations as subservient to the drive for truth, beauty, and goodness.

It was almost exactly one rotation around the sun ago that the first post appeared at progarchy.  Since, citizenship in our little quasi-anarchist polis has grown wildly.  Amen.

***

Art by Brian Watson.
Art by Brian Watson.

As with progarchy, Fractal Mirror began out of a love for BBT, especially as a community formed around the BBT Facebook page.  It’s one of the most interesting–and one of the most neglected aspects–of the current prog scene.  Though this third wave of prog is now roughly 20 years old, tight communities have been growing within around, above, below, and near it for just as long!

Probably no current prog group, however, does this better than BBT.  While the conversation can take an odd turn here or there, BBT’s FB page hosts and encourages some of the best discussion of music, culture, and history anywhere.  Never a dull moment at the BBT FB page, administered, interestingly enough, by everyone’s favorite Swedish progarchist, Tobbe Janson.

There are more connections, some of them rather intimate.  Leo Koperdraat inspired much of the writing for progarchy from and with his own many reviews written for DPRP (our heroes), while Frank Urbaniak (drummer) and Brian Watson (artist) are citizens of perfect standing in the pseudo-anarchical progarchy.

[Progarchy, it should be noted, has no border guards, border fences, customs officials, or TSA agents]

After reviewing and talking about music for years, DPRP’s Leo Koperdraat (voice, guitars, keyboards, and lyricist) decided to create a band.  He and Ed Van Haagen (bass and keyboards) have been playing together for years, and the two recruited Frank (drums and lyrics on one song).  Throw in Brian’s always stunning artwork (and the lyrics on one song), guest spots by Don Fast (an unofficial fourth member of the band and brother of famed keyboardist, Larry Fast) on guitar and Charlotte Koperdraat (Leo’s daughter) on vocals, and some advice from Nosound’s Giancarlo Erra, and the result is a thing of brilliance, a thing of beauty, a treasure, frankly.

I’m never a fan of labels or of categorization.  Prog generally needs no descriptives to modify it.  Retroprog, crossoverprog, etc., seem so bloody (may my English friends forgive me for employing their perfect word) redundant to me.  I’m fully with Andy Tillison on this.  Prog means everything can be thrown in the mix.  It’s music as art, and art as music.  In the same way that Arvo Part uses amplifiers to make a point in modern symphonies, so a rock artist should feel free to employ anything traditionally classical to underscore the drama of the music.

Prog, by definition, means breaking boundaries.

***

Art by Brian Watson
Art by Brian Watson

This written, even if I wanted to label Fractal Mirror’s first release, “Strange Attractors,” I’m not even sure how I would do so.

I can, however, state unequivocally, it’s gorgeous, stunning, moody, intense, brooding, uplifting, punctuated, driving, subtle, sustained, lush, flowing, inspiring.

One might call it New Wave/prog or alt rock/prog.  Indeed, as I listen repeatedly (it’s rather addictive), I’m reminded much of the intensity of Peter Murphy or Robert Smith (Faith-era), the lushness of Reverberation-era Echo and the Bunnymen, the wall of sound of My Bloody Valentine, the punctuations of The Fixx, and the vocal sensibilities (though the voices sound NOTHING alike) of Andy Partridge on “This World Over.”

It would be fair, however, to label this music as moody, lulling, serious, and accompanied by waves of sound rather than a wall of sound.  Ten tracks long, none of the songs meander, ranging from 2:56 to 5:42 minutes in length.

Yet, there’s a coherency to the album as a whole, and if an engineer–a la Todd Rundgren–might connect it all, one song to another, it would work just as well.  Coherence without sameness.

The famed Rhys Marsh mastered “Strange Attractors,” and it shows.  Each of the musicians is in top form.  I’m especially taken with Koperdraat’s anguished vocals, Van Haagen’s fluid bass, and Urbaniak’s spacious drums.  Each remains distinctive and alive, but always forming a coherent whole.  Each offers a uniqueness as a part of a whole.  Hard to explain, frankly, but it’s a fundamental part of this excellent album.

As some progarchists have noted, the number of releases that are prog or prog-related (those labels again!) is sometimes overwhelming, as though drinking from a fire hose.  Fractal Mirrors MUST NOT get lost in this current deluge of goodness.  It’s distinctive, and it needs a market.  No, let me put that better.  Right now, Fractal Mirror is looking at all distribution options.  A record company would be foolish to pass this one up.  These guys are at the beginning of something vital, ready to spring forth into the world.

I’m deeply honored to be a part of the BBT and the progarchy community, and I’m equally honored to know that something so gorgeous and meaningful has arisen out of these communities (Ave, Gregory Mark Aurelius Spawton!).  Leo, Ed, and Frank–highest kudos to you.  And, thank you–for trusting me with such glimpses of the rotating spheres. . . .

FM web image
Art by Brian Watson.

For more information, contact Leo at:

fractalmirror@gmail.com

One thought on “Through a Glass, But Not So Darkly: Fractal Mirror

  1. Frank Urbaniak

    Thank you Brad for these kind words. It is an amazing thing to connect so well with two gents who I have never met in person but ‘chat’ with daily in this creative endeavor called Fractal Mirror. Your comments are humbling and flattering.

    Like

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