Nearly two decades into his career as co-founder and multi-instrumentalist of the ensemble Balmorhea, Michael A. Muller deepens his compositional exploration with Mirror Music—available from Deutsche Grammophon digitally on 1 March 2024 and on a limited vinyl pressing on 15 March. Out today, “Mirror 2 (featuring Chuck Johnson)”, the second single from Mirror Music, sets a meditative mood while displaying the album’s dynamism and range. The track features ambient pedal steel guitar from Johnson.
After a rework for Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson, Michael A. Muller officially signed to Deutsche Grammophon in Fall 2023 with reissues of his debut Lower River and its counterpart, Lower River Reworks. Writing and producing from his Elyria Sound studio in Los Angeles, he creates wholly experiential music that evades trope as a rule and exists in a space between the darkly occluded and the atmospherically spacious, with wide-reaching references, from 1950s jazz via 19th-century classical music to contemporary avant-garde and ambient works.
Mirror Music, Muller’s debut full-length for Deutsche Grammophon, is a study in reflection, with 10 tracks created in collaboration with 11 international artists. Thematically, the album is meant to feel familiar yet distant, a half-remembered dream that challenges what music ought to be while inspiring inward-facing interpretation. Formed by the inexplicable harmony of human connection and one’s impermanence in the wider scheme of self, existence and place, Mirror Music is at once holding out a magnifying glass and offering an open window to an ever-expanding cosmos.
Each piece initiated from a foundation of Muller’s ambient compositions, written on Mellotron, Oberheim Two-Voice synthesizer, and Rhodes organ. Afterward, he shared the work with an interdisciplinary group of artists, inviting each to contribute to specific tracks. Mirror Music opens with tactile, open-tuned 12-string guitar from Danny Paul Grody, segueing into shimmering pedal steel guitar from Chuck Johnson, then falling into Vestals’ operatic apparitions. Following tracks feature the breathy bass clarinet of Jonathan Sielaff, and guitar from Ilyas Ahmed; the lonesome desert timbres of Tortoise’s Douglas McCombs; skittering rhythms from Indonesian-Australian percussionist Rama Parwata; modular synthesized reflections from Jefre Cantu-Ledesma; sonorous vocals from Hania Rani; soft, reverberant synthesis from Jon Porras; and concluding with emotive cello from Clarice Jensen. Together, the pieces form a cohesive movement through an assembly of two halves—a diptych of images braided into a single vision; holding a unified form whilst flashes of errant and haunting light refract through the proverbial glass.
This idea is underscored by the album’s cover art by Los Angeles painter John Zabawa. Mirror Music was mixed to quarter-inch, two-track tape by Muller and Chuck Johnson at the latter’s Cirrus Oxide studio in Oakland, CA; it was mastered by Berlin-based Zino Mikorey and mixed for Dolby Atmos by Matthias Stalter at Munich’s ThreeDee Music.
Accompanying the audio release is a film for the track “Mirror 8 (featuring Hania Rani)” from British photographer and director Rich Stapleton, who also made the artist portraits for the release.