The Mirror by People Like Us

People Like Us | The Mirror
Discrepant (LP/DL)

People Like Us (Vicki Bennett) has most definitely left her indelible mark on the world of experimental sound since the early 90’s, now and forever. Released on vinyl by Discrepant these eleven tracks on The Mirror were previously out on CD last year (Cutting Hedge). Bennett’s signature brand of edited cut-ups are peerless. The wry play on pop flair delves into the world of lost ditties and harmonic overtures – as heard on the title cut here. Slowly peeled away you can hear the exotica of Hollywood, the dance hall flourishes (Lawrence Welk-style), and a variety of crooners, in repetition, orating the same ‘message’ – overlapped for her (and his) pleasure. It’s both (sw)elegant and haunting – in the way a 70’s British b-movie horror flick once dug up and revamped old monster classics (ala 1972’s groovy Dracula A.D.).

Some of the theatrical chords suddenly float like clouds and slowly erode into the larger mix. It’s like listening to an old box of obscure LPs with a friend, swapping for turns at the table, daring deeper levels of strange unheard sounds. And just as the lilt fuses into holiday allusion, folky rock riffs blend both meticulously and clunky at variant turns. There’s much packed to the gills here, but it never becomes bloated, more in the essence of subliminal mirage – like several radio stations competing for your attention. Only this has the looping refrain of the classic holiday-mode Bing Crosby threaded throughout. A broken orchestra, looped, out of sync, Christmas-isms (church bells, carols, whistling…), glints of Phil Spector sessions, the vaguest Kraftwerk-ian frequency, there’s just much (so much, too much) to ponder – it’s almost a truncated music history lesson – coming off in the form of a mountain of gifts in shiny, colorful packages.

The seasick grooviness of the Beach Boys, the gospel-touched Motown and the reverb-driven unknown find there frayed seams connecting to AOR, Lou Reed and a ghostly Wurlitzer as this drifts into ear-quenching non-sequiturs. Like most in her discography, this is one of those incredibly rare gems that sounds as though it took years to compile, mix and produce as the kitchen-sink elements are vast. What makes this even more exciting is that it is ‘as is’ – an unfinished collage – giving the listener a viewing of an artist’s work ‘in-progress’ or even as incomplete, you get entré into a disrupted ‘sketch’. Is that Barbra, the Beatles? Bennett celebrates the song stylists, the crooners, the sirens and interpreters of melody, and all the psychedelic in-between. The songs she pulls from seem to stem between 30’s ballroom and 70’s soft disco, here presented like being in a deep REM-state, dreaming of being at the drive-in, in warped Panavision.

Essential.

PS: Keen listeners may imagine a live head-to-head match between PLU and DJ Donnasummer one of these fine days – imagine!? Hey, I can dream!

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