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His Name Is Alive
All The Mirrors in the House Dustin Krcatovich , June 19th, 2019 09:53

A collection of purported juvenalia that's better than it has any right to be. So much so, in fact, that Dustin Krcatovich isn't sure that he buys the story

Warren Defever is a liar. I'm not saying this because I'm angry, and certainly not to "out" him; it's simply established fact. Like his Michigander brethren in Wolf Eyes, Defever has long delighted in stretching the truth with interviewers, fellow musicians, and random people he meets on the street, conjuring Kaufman-esque mythologies and absurdist mundanities alike. The liner notes of this record reference a time when he'd convinced Melody Maker that his band hosted an annual science fair, a blatant lie spread for no reason other than shits and giggles.

It's worthwhile, if a bit distracting, to have that context while listening to All The Mirrors In The House, the umpteenth release by Defever's long-running, ever-mutating His Name Is Alive project. These recordings were purportedly made when our man was between the ages of 10 and 17, an isolated dweeb fascinated with tape recorders, new age music, field recordings, and punk rock. The tracks are all primitive loops, zoned guitar, makeshift multitracking, and woozy analog warble. A plausible enough story, right? Lots of kids mess with that kind of thing.

The difference being, of course, that most kids' early attempts at recording sound like shit, and these do not. In fact, they sound as good as any "ambient" release you've heard in the last five years, lovely no matter how old its maker was during recording. The huzzy harmonic washes presage shoegaze by a couple years, which will likely get some stragglers in the door, but plenty of other 90s and 00s lo-fi signifiers are in here, too: the lovely proto-post-rock guitar of ‘Something About Hope’, the positively hypnagogic ‘Tape Slow’, the Kranky-esque drone of ‘Piano Rev’. It's flabbergasting to think that all of this could have been made by some fucking teenager in suburban Michigan in the 1980s before he'd even pubed.

Thing is, though, if anyone could have honestly been making this stuff at that age, in that time period, before anyone would even know what to call it, it's Defever. The guy's always been a few years too early, when he's not off on trips too inscrutable to even copy. This is not to say that I'm 100% confident that this great record was the work of a tween, only to say that Defever's history suggests that it's possible.

Honestly, though, it doesn't really matter. Whether Defever made these recordings as a kid, made them yesterday, or paid someone else to make them and slapped his name on it, All The Mirrors In The House would remain a truly lovely diversion.