From the thumping tribal drumbeats of opener ‘Apply’ to the enraptured twinkling of wind-chimes that meander their way through the record’s entirety, the debut LP from L.A’s one-woman orchestra, Cameron Mesirow, presents a sonic antithesis to the sprawl of Californian concrete in which it was recorded. It's an album one can imagine being discovered in an enchanted forest alongside some dusty old Joni Mitchell or Joanna Newsom recordings. Yet to judge Mesirow’s debut as Glasser purely by its beguiling mix of exotic instrumentation and dreamlike tenor would be a mistake. For despite Ring exhibiting impressive musical ambition and genuine vocal talent, a distinct air of rushed compromise pervades – a great shame given the strength of its meticulously crafted standout tracks.
Seamlessly following on from the lush vocal layerings and raw synth pulses of ‘Apply’, recent single ‘Home’ is a perfectly-formed gem that stresses the fragility of seemingly permanent human retreats. Underpinned by xylophone loops and hand clapped rhythms, Mesirow’s mesmeric voice soars above the ethereal beats below, repeating the lyric “home” until swept aside by a grand orchestral current. It's a startlingly unique four minutes that encapsulate Ring’s finest elements: original composition, adventurous instrumentation and subtle electronics. Unfortunately, though, any hopes that Mesirow’s debut will continue to unfold along such strong lines are soon dashed, with the following new-age, faux-folk trudge of ‘Glad’ veering a little too close to Wicker Man soundtrack territory for comfort. Indeed whenever Glasser attempts to jettison electronic aspects in favour of wholly organic sounding arrangements, Ring’s hypnotic charm rather diminishes, with a mid-section marimba workout during ‘Treasure of We’ lending the song a somewhat uninspired Vodafone ad vibe.
Anchored by two slices of intricately sculpted electronica, Ring’s second half reveals the influence of producer Van Rivers, with the haunted ambient pop of ‘Mirrorage’ being powerful enough to slip easily into the back catalogue of his last musical ally, Fever Ray. All razor-sharp percussion, vocoder vocals and cascading wind-chimes, the track not only acts as Ring’s stand alone highlight, but also as its thematic peak, a crescendo to which (filler or not) all preceding songs have been building up to. Regrettably Glasser fails to round off proceedings at such an opportune moment, with the brave but rather clumsy saxophone driven dub/jazz stomp of ‘Clamour’ taking the record’s final bow – an odd move but one somehow in keeping with the character of Ring. For although these 38 minutes more than prove Glasser to be an innovative musical talent, too much half-baked filler dilutes Ring’s most potent moments. An ultimately frustrating listen, not because of the quality of Ring per se, but because of the undoubted class of record it could have been if only it were a little more thought through. Still, there’s certainly enough potential to justify Glasser’s rising reputation as a worthy heir to a certain Icelandic lady's throne.
6Guy Baillie-Grohman's Score