On Blue Mirror, Portland’s David Fylstra — performing here under the moniker of Folian — sinks into a kind of drone-ified, poignantly atmospheric doom. His music packs a lot of thickness and intertwining threads of sound that include heavy guitars, but these guitar parts, like the rest of the elements, are extended into a sprawling, loose structure that feels quite closely attuned to emotional ebbs and flows from real life.
The Space Behind the Mirror
“The intent is always something that one can sink into and experience, without distractions,” Fylstra explains. “Though there is rawness and vulnerability at the core of the music itself, the use of many layers of sound to sculpt the whole thing suggests attention to detail. It’s not very minimal. There are a lot of electronic elements in the sound, but the goal was making it feel natural, with a certain yet subtle ‘psychedelic’ quality.”
It’s true; as Folian on Blue Mirror, Fylstra has melded heavy, trodding guitars with experimentation-induced, subtle psychedelia. Rather than stick solely to the most traditional usages of those guitars — riffs leading through a verse, followed by a chorus, and so on — Fylstra’s performances flow with a sometimes gently surging atmosphere that feels more attuned to the emotional pressure inherent in the sounds than some particularly pre-set melodic path or something of the sort. How often do life experiences follow an actually pre-set path anyway?
“This theme of the album stems from personal experiences and ideas,” Fylstra shares. “There are lyrics, and they have meaning, but the music itself also tells a story better than words alone could. This album is sort of a monument to this certain time in my life, a direct reflection, documented. In many ways, I am still making sense of it. I have used it to learn more about myself.”
As the title suggests, Fylstra has used the project like an apparent mirror with which to examine his own psychological states and experiences, and the illuminating nature of that mirror extends to listeners as well.
“In general, documenting and then observing this music serves as a way for me to understand things that are internalized but not fully understood,” he shares. “For me, listening back to it is like looking into a mirror. Thoughts will begin and flow into certain areas, and some things may come to the surface. Sound and music can also trigger many different responses and achieve many different experiences, and I want to explore that. I open this project up to being able to experiment with all kinds of instruments and sounds, so long as it feels right, but it is definitely a playground sometimes. I get to do things with this project I won’t get to do with other ones.”
Constructing the Sound
Fylstra has accomplished this uniquely experiential sonic journey in part via the introduction of sounds well beyond the most traditional or at least familiar ones. Blue Mirror includes guitars, synths, field recordings, and more, like his own emotionally weighted but often quite subdued singing.
“The bulk of solo material I had released prior to this project was mostly acoustic guitar based,” Fylstra explains. “So, in terms of instrumentation, I hadn’t incorporated much of any drum samples or distorted guitar into my music yet. I come from a background of metal and other heavy music, and I think that naturally started to work its way into the sound I was making. I wanted to make heavier and denser compositions, and began doing so using the tools I had available.”
The combination of these elements makes for a unique listening experience. At once, listeners can both float along with the sounds in an exploratory sense and dive into the more emotional side, feeling whatever bursts forth. Fylstra says he’s inspired by the “quality in artists such as Boris, Nine Inch Nails, Cave In, or even Blut Aus Nord.” His own songs don’t sound like those artists, but he notes that he’d “welcome anyone who is generally familiar with metal and can approach the music with patience to give it a go.”
The Live Experience
Folian’s experience-oriented sounds quickly prove refreshingly unique, but there are some music scene elements that Fylstra shares he feels a kinship with while immersed in the project. Although he’s felt like the “odd one out of the bunch” when performing at both straightforwardly metal and straightforwardly experimental shows, Fylstra explains that he’s found a place with those in between.
“I find Folian fits best on shows with mixed bills, with artists and audiences who are like-minded, and open to all sorts of different things,” he shares. “I love the mystery of going to a mixed show and not knowing what I’m in for. I get bored when it’s 3 or 4 bands that are basically following the same formula as the next. When you mix it up, for better or for worse, each act has a clearer chance at standing out from the others. These shows have been the best for me. Portland and other parts of the Pacific Northwest, for the most part, have some really cool underground music webs throughout the community, and it’s great when they intersect.”
Like that personalization of the live music experience, the soul of Blue Mirror, in a sense, comes back to a personal experience that can also be felt right at home — or wherever one might like to listen to music. As Fylstra explains: “This work is very contemplative and is most likely best listened to in a calmer state of mind, preferably alone and with great, loud speakers and low lighting!”
He adds: “I want people to go into it with a certain state of vulnerability and sense of mystery. It should be an exploratory experience where the sound can tell a story, and the listener can let thoughts come and go freely. If the listener can tap into that world and maybe personally connect to it, possibilities are limitless. This is how I’ve grown to love some of my favorite records and art.”
In a sense, that cuts right to the core of the personal experience side of lots of art, musical or otherwise, to begin with. Fylstra has brought these personal experiences to the surface.
Photo via Dylan Garrett Smith
Check out Blue Mirror below!