vrijdag 17 juni 2016

Eyeland. The Low Anthem

The Low Anthem is a band that has come by my ears a few times in the past few years, but never really caught my attention. With Eyeland it has and in many, pleasing and confusing ways. Where to start with an album that is so diverse, strange, weird and good all at the same time?

With the beginning, I guess. Eyeland starts in an easy way. 'In Eyeland' sounds like a reincarnated Mark Linkous and his Sparklehorse. Slow, slightly mysterious music with slow, strange singing, without too much emotion and technically treated as if sung from within a closed box or something like that. A beautiful piano part comes in together with a completely estranging rhythm like a brushing broom or something like that. A ballad like song is infused with estranging elements. And this is just the start of an album that is better to be described as a trip beyond the limits of my musical imagination.

It's been five years since The Low Anthem released an album. After the album that broke its name somewhat bigger, 'Oh My God, Charlie Darwin' (2009), the band released 'Smart Flesh' in 2011. I remember the story about it being recorded in an abandoned ketchup factory, but none of the music what so ever. Perhaps that is one of the reason why the band took so long to come up with new songs? In the meantime the central duo of The Low Anthem, Ben Knox Miller and Jeff Prystowsky have surrounded themselves with three new members.

Together they shoot out in all directions. And within songs experiment some more. A Paul Simon inspired ballad, 'The Pepsi Moon', is followed by a garage rocker called 'Ozzie' where a Mo Tucker clone pounds on the drum skins to drive the band on in The Velvet Underground fashion, until the song collapses inwards totally, to be saved by the pounding drum that picks up the rhythm and a horn that picks up the melody. Strange, weird, a total mess at times. Artistic freedom of expression, but it does injustice to what is a fine song.

After that The Low Anthem takes the listener into uncharted territory. Instrumental pieces with sound experiments and disconcerting excerpts. Not for everyday listening, but as my girlfriend said after she seemingly went about her business, walking in and out of the room described it: "this is very strange, but somehow I like it". And I haven't come up with a better description of what goes on in 'Waved The Neon Seaweed'. When I return your attention to 'The Pepsi Moon' the contrast has become so large that it is almost incomprehensible to be on the same album. Before that we already had experienced of the interference, white noise, in 'Her Little Cosmos'. Another fine song with these weird elements. Not like that The Jesus and Mary Chain song, but the same idea none the less.

We return somewhat to normal with 'Behind The Airport Mirror', although "the masturbating border guards" behind these mirror in the lyrics do not exactly attest to what we'd call normality, on the job. Fascinating though Eyeland is right up to this moment. Don't worry, it doesn't change. The band keeps surprising as Eyeland takes us further on into itself. Don't act surprised when the 'Yellow Submarine' comes by in a whistled fashion to a background that has nothing to do with a traditional song. 'Wzgddrmtnwrdz' is all but that.

The album continues in this fashion. 80s singing through a vocoder on the most fleeting of sounds, with a jazz saxophone, not unlike what happens on 'Blackstar' without the fierce jazz drumming.

Where does that leave me? Eyeland is all that I wrote at the beginning and perhaps more. It is a trip and as trips come they have up and downsides, can be inhospitable as well as extremely gratifying all in the same trip. Eyeland is a marvel of whatever you want it to be, but certainly strange, yes.


You can listen to '(Don't) Tremble' here:


or buy Eyeland on Bol.Com

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