Glasser is Cameron Mesirow. Cameron Mesirow is Glasser. That’s the basic information you need to know. If you’re curious and want to know more, a few fun facts: she’s from Los Angeles, her dad is in Blue Man Group, her mom played in the short-lived (but relatively popular) band Human Sexual Response, and she came up with the pseudonymn Glasser after having a vision of a figure hovering over a body of water. There’s been one EP, the three track “Apply”, which came out in late 2009 and attracted the right sort of attention to build anticipation for what’s now her debut full length “Ring”, which is out this week.
Describing the sound of Glasser is a small challenge, but that’s a good thing considering how many artists fall plainly into certain genres. Mesirow’s early demos were very rough and unproduced, composed primarily in GarageBand and utilizing only a handful of instruments. With a label in True Panther Sounds and a producer in Foreign Born’s Ariel Rechtshaid, she worked for months to not only re-work a couple tracks from the “Apply” EP but also to craft a collection of songs that had deeper and fuller arrangements than ever before. Enter bass, xylophones, strings, saxophones and a vast selection of beats and percussion to help turn these sparse songs into ones packed with enough variety that it takes multiple listens through the record to even begin to process them. The foundation of most Glasser tracks is electro-synth based, but thanks to things like tribal percussion and the presence of woodwinds it goes beyond mere pop music. One minute she sounds like Kate Bush, the next Bat for Lashes, the next Bjork and the next Fever Ray. It may be a somewhat wide range of female artists, but each is brilliant in their own unique way, as is Glasser. “Ring” is exceptionally composed in large part thanks to how Mesirow commits herself to each individual song no matter where she’s pulling from and concentrates a laser beam-like focus to avoid steering off course. The entirety of the record is built around the titular concept as well, each track carefully placed in an order that spirals inwards to the middle and then back out again, returning to where it all began. At the end of the final track, “Clamour”, the first notes of opening song “Apply” pop up again. Were you to have the entire record on a loop (aka ring), it’d move perfectly from end to end by design.
Then there’s Mesirow’s voice. Smooth as silk, but prone to bits of oddities in that good sort of way. On “Apply”, she takes a fairly normal vocal turn amidst the heavy tribal percussion, but as the synths start to push the melody further and further, she gets out of control with a couple yelps, and then balances it out with some multi-part harmonies that eventually take over the entire track, drowning out the drums entirely. For the chorus of a song like “Plane Temp”, Mesirow repeats the same nonsense word over and over again as the vocal track doubles then triples and it all just turns out simply gorgeous (and easy to remember). A track like “T” serves well to show her vocal chops on a synth ballad, and it turns out sounding like a lost Bat for Lashes track in the best sort of way. One of the best things about “Mirrorage” is that it seems to take the title almost literally when it comes to the vocals, because of the sheer number of vocal tracks piled on top of one another. It’s like staring into a mirror with another mirror right behind you, thereby creating an endless mirror that looks like it goes on to infinity (you could call it…a loop). There’s something Karin Dreijer-ish about that song, in a very positive sort of way.
To Mesirow’s credit, for a record that’s so diverse and creatively stimulating, she’s also made “Ring” largely accessible. There are no tracks that feel too “out there” or experimental, even if this is very different from what you might find in a more mainstream female synth-pop album. There’s far too much ambience and tribal fodder to be placed in a bin anywhere near mainstream. Yet she’s also not quite of the same cloth that Icelandic hero Bjork is, which feels “weird for the sake of weird” sometimes. No, Glasser is far more straightforward with her intentions, despite the wide array of instruments that are used throughout the record. The way each song is organized, and the way each track works in collaboration with the ones that came both before and after it are a big part of why “Ring” is so wonderful. Step in at any singular point in these 9 tracks and 38 minutes and ride it all the way back around and you’ll have a far better understanding of the power this record possesses. The issue, if you want to call it that, is when you only absorb bits and pieces. A few songs like “Apply” and “Home” serve as good introductions to Glasser, but for the most part hooks and individual memories are hard to come by. You’ll definitely remember the album once its over, but trying to select standout moments is like spending time analyzing a gigantic “Where’s Waldo?” poster – damn difficult. In today’s single-a-minute world where most everyone is looking for 3 minutes of pure sugary pop, Glasser is the warm glass of milk you typically drink before bed. Its calming and lovely atmospherics are just what the doctor ordered at the end of a long day. Should you actually commit to it in its entirety, it can go a long way towards ensuring you get exactly what your ears have been searching for.