His Name Is Alive

All the Mirrors in the House

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On His Name Is Alive's early albums for 4AD, the band's dreamy pop songs were surrounded by ambient passages that heightened the mystery of their music -- they felt like tiny portals into another world, one that All the Mirrors in the House gives listeners a chance to explore more fully. The first of a series of archival His Name Is Alive releases, the collection gathers Warren Defever's earliest recordings, which date back to his '80s experiments with a handful of gear (piano, guitar, a well-used echo pedal and a 4-track recorder loaded with cheap cassettes). Though Defever was barely in his teens when he began recording to escape the boredom of being stuck at home during long Michigan winters, they're more than just homespun youthful experiments. For longtime His Name is Alive fans, it's especially illuminating to hear the origins of the interludes that embellished their first few albums. On "Something About Hope," a sweetly circular acoustic guitar melody foreshadows Home Is in Your Head's somber vignettes. Elsewhere, the beautifully eerie tones of "Outside the Window" recall how Livonia sounded like it was recorded at a seance. All the Mirrors in the House is remarkable not just for the sheer range of sounds Defever conjures from his equipment -- "Fine as Feathers" moves from an abstract choir to ghostly brass, while "Lliadian" rides waves of swirling, violin-like layers -- but for the fascinating array of textures and movement within its pieces. The contrast between the blissfully chiming melody of "Guitar Rev" and slowly intertwining drones underneath it is striking, as is the juxtaposition of "Tape Slow"'s tremulous tones and serene mood. The ripples on "Piano Rev"'s gleaming surface evoke wind on water, an image Defever makes more literal, yet more surreal, on "Echo Lake," where field recordings of actual waves lap over and under subaquatic drones. With the help of Tyvek's Shelley Salant, Defever masterfully blends All the Mirrors in the House's tracks into a seamless whole. Thanks to the collection's flow, shorter pieces like the reflections and refractions of the aptly named title track have as much impact as longer ones such as "Rememory," a piece whose graceful undulations reach nearly cosmic proportions. Hearing His Name is Alive's music in its literal infancy after all this time is a gift, but there's also a singular purity to All the Mirrors in the House that gives it a special place in Defever's body of work.

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