Eyesix EP






The innocuously titled Eyesix EP is the debut of the eponymous artist and graphic designer from Galway, Ireland whose persona, at the time of writing this review, is shrouded in mystery, so it could well be that he is a veteran producer who has gone through different monikers or even used his real name in other productions. Notwithstanding these arcana, the driving factors and aesthetics are based on mimicry; a tasteful, well-realized and meticulously observed mimicry, I might add. Released in digital form in the middle of August 2013 on the Norse Sparkwood Records label and available to purchase and fully stream at Bandcamp, the five tracks show the close ear the artist has for bleached recollections and the unfolding of childhood memories. Yes, this has been done before the turquoise way, and granted, Eyesix does indeed cite Boards of Canada as his primary source of inspiration, with Tycho coming a close second. Reality does not equal realness, and all of these three artists are able to transform this surreal twilight state into music. Eyesix emulates the synths, timbres and beat structures of the Scottish duo, uses samples of educational films and injects field recordings into his EP, but the result, while perfectly known and incredibly close to Boards of Canada, is still convincing and bewitching. This, to my mind, leads to the specific timbre the Ireland-based artist chose for his debut. With one semi-exception, all songs are coated in uncertainty, thereby making room for psychedelic patterns, mephitic tone sequences and grinding beats. The ambience is always in the center, but girdling turbulences and jagged rhythms waft and blow in close proximity, as do the short sample-based vignettes which traverse by. I carve out some of the EP's simmering peculiarities and contrastive counterpoints in the following paragraphs.


The only piece that is a truthful take on the beatless synth-fueled Ambient formula kicks off Eyesix’s debut EP. Subiaco is a partly Gothic, partly New Age-oid gloaming critter which places glaringly Boards of Canada-esque bass flute-like tones in-between ecclesiastic organ washes. The occasional drop of barking dogs and – joyfully! – screaming children as well as laughing women round off the dualistic nature of this tune. What sounds weird and unfocused on the pixels of your reading device is entirely the reviewer’s fault who is not able to pinpoint the haunting magic of this particular piece in precise clarity. Just a few seconds shy of the three-minute mark, Subiaco is a clear cut nod to the nostalgic trips of the Sandison Bros., but if one reduced it to this curtsy, one would miss the creepy interstices, the concomitance of jinxed memories and would-be futures. The barking of the dogs is particularly noteworthy; this is no cutesy ode to The Orb’s Towers Of Dub rather than a dead-serious bunch of bloodlust mongrels. Since there is no subtle layer in here and everything feels saturated and upfront, Subiaco is an anthem hued in crepuscular technicolor reels with that certain mischievous factor of uneasiness and portentous oracles interwoven into its scenery. The follow-up Habitat67 revs up everything that was present on Subiaco already, at least timbre-wise. A field recording of gurgling rain adds aqueous dampness to a breakbeat-interspersed four-note synth sequence which is as frightening and pernicious as it is gaseous and rolling. Bass droplets and hand claps put the finishing touches on the beat, all the while another hint at the aforementioned Scottish duo is erected, this time in the shape of purified glints and vitreous whistles. This is the tune that resembles the front artwork, as drawn by Eyesix himself, best.


Coming up next is Nuclear Family, and as expected, it not only presents a creepy dichotomy; it imposes it on the listener. A wondrous quasi-rendition both texture- and melody-wise of Pete Standing Alone, superbly lofty and carefree synthetic bells waft around erbaceous green soils and natural habitats. A frizzling shaker-heavy beat structure ameliorates the loftiness of the open skies further. The uneasiness and admonitory hint comes in the appearance of a public service announcement taken from an educational or instructional film about, you’ve guessed it, nuclear plants and the right behavior in case of an emergency which is of cooourse highly unlikely to occur, phew. The edifying-erudite voice of the male commentator and his worry-free indoctrinations about death and exigency spoil the insouciance of this piece and remind the listener of pondering about his or her own existence and the very factors that threaten it. Once this is achieved, the wittily titled centerpiece Soylent Green arrives. Not only does it feature the most staggering midtempo Hip-Hop rhythms, Eyesix is also keen on unleashing the most haunting three-note synth melody supercharged with forsakenness. Bouncing and wobbling faux-gusts and the expected bell layers create an estranging atmosphere which is interpolated by blurred female laughter and a flurry of stories. Oscillating between haunted hills and vertiginous valleys, Soylent Green is intense and utterly present. The two-part finale Tonopah then reintroduces the analogue sawtooth surfaces of Nuclear Family but pieces the melody together anew in what is undoubtedly the most euphonious piece of the album. Glassy clangs within the beats, frizzling shakers on the percussive side as well as etiolated yet towering shawm-resembling flute tones finally find the right surroundings and harmonies to shine and glow. A wonderfully glorified endpoint which leads to an Ambient vignette of ethereal bagpipe melodies whose wraithlike sinews still work despite the distance to the listening subject. 


Eyesix offers a refreshing mimicry with his Eyesix EP, no matter how oxymoronic such an interpretation seems to be. The omnipresent aura of whitewashed, veneered Boards Of Canada chords, childhood layering techniques and retrogressive montages allow, maintain and nurture a bustling work of haunting beauty. The term haunting means more than the sum of its parts, for throughout the fir-green dioramas, globs of uneasiness, tension and portent are either cautiously interwoven, overwhelmingly pressing or seemingly indifferent, with only the final track Tonopah offering a sense of unspoiled joy and exhilaration without any compromise. I do not know whether one could link the release to the strongly growing cavalcade of Hauntology music – J. Simpson aka Forestpunk’s excellent website/blog provides an incredibly scholarly insight into the movement – but the sense of shady rurality, sepia-toned woods and hazy valleys is all over Eyesix’s debut. The inspiration coming from Hip-Hop structures is eminently noticeable, with only the opener Subiaco presenting itself as truly Ambient by nature. I do not dislike beats, rhythms and thumping basslines at all, but would wish for more beatless material in the future, as it is here where the heterodyned chords can unchain – or quasi-hide – the brutish nature hidden in the tonal interstices of Eyesix’s formations. It will be interesting to see whether the Irish artist remains in these climes and erects an alternative body of works closely attached to the renowned Scottish duo, or whether the next releases will sport an even darker touch, a forsaken setting or downright post-apocalyptic scenario.


Further listening:

You can purchase and fully stream the Eyesix EP at Bandcamp.



Ambient Review 262: Eyesix – Eyesix EP (2013). Originally published on Sep. 18, 2013 at AmbientExotica.com.