There seems to be a great deal of confusion in deciding who exactly Jamie Woon is. On the one hand, we have a dubstep-influenced, smoky-voiced electronic producer; talented and forward-thinking. On the other, we have a Brit School-trained singer-songwriter, lucky to have known someone who happened to be able to get Burial to remix ‘Wayfaring Stranger’, kickstarting the career that leads Woon to where he is today; equipped with a chart-ready debut album.
There certainly seems to be a great deal of ambition in Woon; doubtless, he’s a musician who’s been chasing his dream for many years now and there’s no denying that ‘Night Air’ gave the impression that in front of our very eyes was someone fairly interesting. Mirrorwriting is also greatly inspired by Radiohead’s most left-field album, Kid A. But it’s through combining this playful offering of mystery, illusion and inventiveness with a more established soul influence that Woon begins to stumble. On the album, his voice is a sickly kind of smooth. This ends up harming the songs as they all merge into one, easy-going tangle.
Coherence seems to have been the aim of Mirrorwriting, and there’s no faulting that. The nocturnal, 1am sound is accompanied by short song titles and the abstract artwork intertwines with the mood of the songs. But it’s almost too comfy a package. Granted, single ‘Lady Luck’ and a brass-led ‘Middle’ have a zest and bounce that many of the other tracks lack but with the exception of these and the dramatic opening minute of ‘Gravity’, there’s little interruption of the tranquillity swimming around the album. As a result, opinion will split: Mirrorwriting will either be viewed as a tiresome, energy-sapping work or the perfect night-time soundtrack. In actual fact, it’s a little bit of both.
If its purpose is to ease you out of a stressful day at work, accompanying you with evening walks and listening sessions with the lights dimmed, its purpose is a little limited. Mirrorwriting has more in common with instrumental “chillout” music than dubstep. The Burial production of ‘Night Air’ fails to be replicated elsewhere, too: with the aforementioned’s albums, you get this deep, vivid picture of urban London on a wet, dark evening. With Woon’s effort, you can’t help but fall into a slumber; the album’s nowhere near as stimulating.
It ought to noted however that beneath an at times nauseating aura of cool, there lies some devastating ability. Woon’s voice, inspired by the great Stevie Wonder, has considerable range and when applied to something like the effervescent ’Middle’, it works wonders. When you first hear ‘Night Air’ or ‘Wayfaring Stranger’, you have to pinch yourself because above these dub-inspired sonics is a conventional, trained singing voice. This is both Mirrorwriting‘s greatest strength and its biggest downfall. It takes away from some of the great ideas lurking within the songs by being so constant and at times, monotonous. But it remains a potent combination. Woon remains the the first to really apply the dark, resonating ideas of Burial and his contemporaries to a more pop-inclined record. The ambition of it all is commendable and yet, whilst listening, you get a niggling sense that it’s all a bit forced and fallacious, even.