Nickolas Mohanna’s background as a visual artist glows through on Reflectors, his second full-length release and his first for Preservation. This collection — six luminous pieces of guitar treatment, synthesizer trickery and field recordings — becomes almost visible in places, so lambent are its drones, so incandescent its various blasts of glitter and glare. It’s not necessarily pretty, although that could certainly be said of sections, but it does have an inherent lightness that gives it an agreeable warmth. Even “Particles,” which starts life as one of the more frantic and most distant pieces on the record, eventually reigns itself in to end on a deep, rounded drone wrapped in swirling creation that feels closer to life (or the beginnings of life) than the cool, calculated experiments in aural connectivity perhaps more often associated with this kind of sound art.
Sound art, in fact, is exactly what we’re dealing with here in the most literal sense. By bringing together myriad zippy synth sounds, sparkling guitar chimes and more mysterious fuzzes and hums in the manner he does, Mohanna seems to invoke in the listener a kind of synaesthesia. The appropriately titled album standout “Color Theory” is awash with various luminous hues, all of which dance and swirl across your mind’s eye like paints dripping into water. “Color Theory” begins a magnificent three-track stretch (followed by “Mott Street” and ended by the blazing “Solar Mechanism”) that will give any album this year a run for its money–the way the pieces ebb and flow in and out of each other creates a sense of momentum that provides the record’s most outstanding collision of sound and vision. “Solar Mechanism” is a worthy title for the album’s centrepiece, a nine-minute glow of stately synth and steady sonic development that reflects upon (there you go–I had to use it eventually) and evokes within the listener the awesome power and incredible heat created within our closest star. As the track progresses it becomes unstable–the elements created throughout flare off and strip it clean before eventually it collapses in upon itself to leave a dense, rapidly oscillating core. “Grows Lush In The Night” follows fittingly as the darkest and coldest piece of music on the album before “Particles” finishes it all off and brings us full circle, hinting as it does at new beginnings and the slow return of light and life.
This is the penultimate release in Preservation’s excellent Circa series for 2011 and it’s a good one. Look out for more in 2012.