Glasser – ‘Interior’ album review

If experimental, architectonic, electro pop didn’t already exist as a convoluted sub-genre then it has just arrived. Architectonic songs are few and far between: Simon and Garfunkel’s goodbye note So Long Frank Lloyd Wright, or Here I Dreamt I Was An Architect by The Decemberists and, err… Our House? Research throws up dozens more, amongst them Pavement’s The Hexx which features the slightly disturbing analogy “architecture students are like virgins with an itch they cannot scratch/never build a building till you’re 50, what kind of life is that?” – It’s almost enough to make me wish I had taken Biology*.

Cameron Mesirow of Glasser who provides the soaring lyrics in Interiors has spoken readily about her struggle with spatial anxiety – a condition of heightened spatial awareness that had caused her to collapse in public spaces as a child. Interiors is a record of a personal struggle with anxiety and with the space surrounding oneself. It is therefore no consequence that the first three songs (Shape, Design and Landscape) cause the album to read like the contents of an introduction to architectural vocabulary. A departure in style from earlier work is immediately apparent – the tracks are laced with elements of dubstep and have a more powerful beat whilst retaining the eeriness of her debut album Ring (2010).

At times the vocals are more warbled than sung, demonstrating a vocal talent others have compared to Björk, though remain clear throughout (yet rarely dominant over heavier synth and percussive elements). The use of recognizable, recorded sound such as footsteps, closing doors and windows, or birdsong in Dissect with the more regular kick drums and sweeping bass is especially clever – and provide tense reminders of the near contact between interior and exterior space.

Listed out of order Window One, Three and Two are named for a method for dealing with her anxiety: by staring at windows and imagining herself within the internal spaces beyond. The windows are symbols of more universal themes too: how/why we choose to internalize aspects of our lives or even the difference between extroverted and introverted behaviour – “listlessness becomes a habit”. Landscape’s honest images of personal relationships can initially seem out of place in a concept album of such strong intent; however Mesirow retains the spatial focus, exploring boundaries and closeness: “the edge of your skin is a cliff”, whilst Divide is about physical separation. Window Three delves back into the architectural theme exploring the paradoxical sense of isolation or anonymity felt in cities. Cameron moved from LA to New York before recording Interiors. She cited Rem Koolhaas’ semi-surreal history of Manhattan ‘Delirious New York’ as a key source, and in Exposure comments on the shifting nature of the city, declaiming “It’s a modern trouble: metamorphosis”.

The new album is less musically cohesive than Ring, which was aptly named for its looping quality (each track flowing into the next), but much more mature in other respects. More mature, but also more fun; Keam Theme collapses before being rebuilt into a more catchy, upbeat sound with a sing-along refrain.

Using such a personal trait as the stimulus for a concept album was a considerable risk yet the narrative strength this allows combined with Glasser’s avant-garde sound has created a truly unique work with many successes. The slightly overworked, intellectual lyrics could have made Interiors feel pretentious. Instead the biggest problem with discovering Glasser’s new sound is that some of the music I used to like sounds lame.

By James Taylor

*It’s personal.