7″ + LP, Fang Bomb/iDEAL Recordings/Release the Bats/When Skies Are Grey, 2008
“Lost in Reflections” is the fourth main album from Swedish artist Dead Letters Spell Out Dead Words (Thomas Ekelund), packaged as a limited edition 7-inch/LP combination. Two years in the making, its creation spans a period in the artist’s life marked by pivotal struggle, a time in which a debilitating psychiatric diagnosis must have both explained everything and shattered the world. “Lost in Reflections” is a mirror of that realm, a lens through which the listener can discover being set adrift in a sea of introspection, otherness and isolation. Ekelund here reveals the mechanisms underlying his work, in so doing giving a sure glimpse of the very humanity present in that terrifying vessel he inhabits: himself.
From the first resonant note, repeating in sinister sincerity, “Lost in Reflections” uncoils with the utmost patience and care. “This Room Seems Empty Without You” continues from that note’s deep recurrence, blossoming into spatiality with a rhythmic, three-part beat, joyless guitar plucking and anesthetic background chatter. On the 7-inch’s reverse, “Lost & Losing” then deconstructs the peaceful enclosure from without, interior succumbing to exterior pressures of a vast, windblown expanse, fed by guitar drones and discomfiting, surging noise. “On Empty Streets, In Crowded Rooms” reminds of factory innards, chemical swamp gurgling, as machine whirring embattles forlorn guitar notes. “What Stays & What Fades Away” lends a subterranean atmosphere with directionless rumbling and unseen mewling creatures. Later, an insistent strumming seems just out of reach, as if behind opaque glass. The final nineteen-minute epic, “Himmelschreibende Herzen”, begins with rippling drone swells, among which soft bass hits rise, and finally, orchestral notes gape and breathe. It is a somber, protracted march, yet ends with these notes hanging poignantly in the air. Whether this symbolizes daybreak, escape, absolution, or something else, it is doubtless hopeful.
Unlike most drone acts utilizing guitar to construct sounds, Ekelund’s is furnished with an undeniable tangibility, present as a distinct role in his soundscapes. Guitar provides melody where there otherwise would be none, emotive prickling in an environment of shifting black and white. It is the key to communicating a disorder’s solitude, the lifeline stretching between parallel worlds. “Lost in Reflections” is not all void and darkness, shrouded apparitions and pervasive melancholy. Full of warmer tones, richer hues and softer timbres, we can accept that ensconced somewhere among the meticulous layering is a mind at odds with its environs, and by no choice of its own.
— Dutton Hauhart