Flowstate, the British singer-songwriter behind the eerily beautiful “Through The Looking Glass,” clearly takes a great deal of influence from Nick Drake. He plays his guitar with a similarly light touch, as though skimming his fingers along the surface of a pond, and his vocals bear more than a passing resemblance to Drake’s warm, hushed tones. But as with every good artist, it never feels like Flowstate is copying off of someone else’s paper; instead, he uses Drake’s particular sound as a jumping-off point for something distinct and striking.
Perhaps the main difference is the lo-fi presentation. Flowstate forgoes the crisp clarity of a record like Pink Moon, instead opting for a fuzzier, bedroom-demo sound. (Here, we can see another influence: Elliott Smith.) It’s a stylistic decision that works in its favor: “Through The Looking Glass,” appropriately for its title, has a psychedelic, off-kilter chord sequence that creates a decidedly dreamy atmosphere. The occasional hesitance between chords, as well as the scrape of fingers along the guitar strings, allows reality to poke holes in the reverie without ever breaking the spell.
“Through The Looking Glass” may be a hushed, pretty song, but there’s a persistent undercurrent of eerie paranoia that I find appealing. The lyrics start with some standard psychedelic imagery–moonlight in someone’s eyes, day turning to night turning to day–but the chorus adds intrigue: “somebody’s on the outside looking in/I can feel it under my skin.” The fear of being watched is a common one, but it makes for a striking contrast to the rest of the song’s natural, bucolic imagery. We imagine dystopia to take the form of grey cities and dictators on television screens, but what if Big Brother’s gaze extends into the countryside?
“I hear the daisies calling my name,” Flowstate almost whispers. “Can you hear them?” He lets that question linger uneasily in the air, long enough for the listener to wonder if hearing the daisies would be such a good thing after all. “Through The Looking Glass” sounds like the immediate aftermath of a bad trip, a cold sweat of a song where you wonder just when you stopped seeing things–if, indeed, you stopped at all.