Laurie Mayer – Black Lining

To tell the truth, I don’t know a lot about Laurie Mayer. She seems to turn up as one of the creative forces behind a lot of William Orbit‘s projects, right back to the Torch Song albums of the 1980s. After about two decades of hiding in the background, 2006 saw her release her first (and, to date, only) solo album Black Lining. It came out mere months after Orbit’s Hello Waveforms, and has some intriguingly common roots, but is also something quite unique.

Black Lining, with its sublime wood-nymph (or whatever that’s supposed to be) artwork opens with the softly jazz-piano inspired Flung. Describing it is difficult, and even that sentence slightly does it a disservice – as we all know, bad jazz can be overwrought, messy and irritating, whereas this is chilled-out and sublime. But there’s something about the rhythmic style of this piece that does remind you a little of the genre.

Low Floating Territory is one of the lovelier pieces on here, drifting gently for nearly seven minutes, and carrying you along with it like a leaf on the breeze. Sometimes music can influence the listener very deeply, and look what this CD just made me write. This is very special indeed, but it may compromise your editorial judgement somewhat.

After a while, the pieces start to drift past so gently that you stop noticing. The sweet choral harmonies of Breathe, You Theomorph, and then the reverberant synth lines of title track Black Lining. The more experimental Thundercloud still doesn’t really storm its way across the sky, but it does seem to hover threateningly.

Then comes one of the more fascinating moments, Jagged Rain, later released as the one single from this album. It comes across as a slowed-down and more mellow version of Surfin, from Hello Waveforms – but without any writer credits on this release, it’s impossible to know for sure whether it happened that way round or whether this one in fact came first.

The main part of the album draws gently towards its close with the troubled Never Will I Leave You, and finally the subdued string piece Leviticus. Just eight lovely pieces of music – probably about all that’s needed here. Except that’s not quite it – there are also two “variations”: Low Floating Variation and Flung Variation. Both are sleepier renditions of the earlier tracks, bringing out different aspects and hiding others.

Across the entire hour or so of music, Black Lining is seductively soft, dreamy, and sweet. It may not – with the possible exception of the title track – have the catchy pop hits you might normally look for, but it’s well worth having on the shelf for times when you need something a little quieter.

The original CD release, with its exceptional artwork, is unfortunately no longer available, and the 2012 remaster which is still available has a vastly second-rate replacement. But it’s probably not about that – you can find the remaster here.

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