Eyedress: Hearing Colors

[19 June 2014]

By Matt James

Step outside at 3AM and the world is one darn freaky place. A place most normal folk ain’t got no right to be. It’s a playground for ‘The Nocturnes’. Junkies. Winos. Thieves. ‘Maverick’ cops. Pimps, pushers and perverts. The accurs’d. Hobos. Ghouls. The undead. Keef Richards. The lost and the loveless. The burnt people. The broken people. It’s also the sound of Hearing Colors. Idris Vicuña – streetname ‘Eyedress’ – may’ve recorded this introductory ‘mixtape’ (It’s NOT a bloody album, m’kay?) in the safety of his parent’s house in Manila but its heart of darkness beats to the drum of the wee hour midnight misfits. Night riders, if you’re in for steppin’ out, walk this way.

Hearing Colors twilight twelve stirs a strange brew of woozy analogue synths cut with the soft aching comfort of sadness and an ominous, lingering threat of moonlit menace. It’s a sound familiar to anyone acquainted with the crystalline crush of Chromatics’ magnificent 2007 album Night Drive, “Shining violence…. in the city”. A slow, hallucinatory, drift after dark way on down past lonely street. Where people are strange and faces come out of the rain. The first half of the ride certainly delivers the shivers. Claustrophobic opener “Salammin”—one of a half dozen tracks featuring vocalist Skint Eastwood—fizzes with bees in the trap buzz, contorted bass, neo-Oriental melody and spectral white noise.

Recent single “Nature Trips” resurrects the dead-by-dawn survivalist spirit of John Carpenter’s pulsating Escape from New York soundtrack. “Yeah I’ve been doing drugs ‘cos I don’t give a fuck / I just wanna forget everything that’s making me feel bad”. It’s pop that’s stumbled innocently into a shady alleyway and re-emerged a staggering, dishevelled nightcrawler. “My Hologram” is more urgent, a black-eyed disco played at half speed. Argento pitter-patter percussion juxtaposed by a fluttering firefly melody. It’s grippingly magnetic, if a little like being pursued by The Bird with the Crystal Plumage’s black gloved, silhouetted stalker. There’s no time to power nap though as the scenes descend and dissipate as swiftly as Will o’ the wisps. The anaesthetised pirouette “Biolumine” paints kaleidoscopic glitter trails in the fog amid friendly ghost vocals whilst the blurry “Archuaco” swings on a pendulum in-and-out of consciousness. Beneath its seductive sway lies a suitcase full of heavy sedatives and what sounds suspiciously like a recoiled cobra’s hissing kiss.

“If we survive / Keep your heart open”. There’s a comparatively more romantic, gentler atmosphere as we cross the border into Colors’ second half. But still, obviously, sleep with one eye open. The sensual electro throb n’ drag of album centrepiece “Triduum” acts as guardian angel through the dark. A Zola Jesus-style velvety ‘Snuggletime in the grave’ both mournful and magical, “The end of the world / I just wanna be where you are”. The beach bound, glitchy R&B of “Luna Llena” even makes it to the soothing shores of Café del Mar. The roll and sway of the tide serenading its lonesome lover toward the ‘otherside’. The sultry, celestial ripple and glow of “Periastron” subsequently sound like mermaids blowing kisses from beneath the waves. Well, that or Mariah Carey having an out-of-body experience whilst jacked up on horse tranquillisers. But just when things are getting too cotton candy cloud cute, “White Lies” appears like Frank Booth at a wedding, wild eyed and dragging his gas tank behind him. “Hey girl!”, it crunches with dread, “Don’t tell me lies!” A sobering smack of hyperventilating Crystal Castles mania and it’s time to send your pants to the dry cleaners again. 

This bewitching underworld cracks a little as the first rays of daylight appear. The m83-lite “Mountbatten” is like waking up on the raft after the storm with a Disney bluebell on your shoulder under a blinding sun… but yeah whatever, gimme me back my darkness. The delicate massage of “Everything We Touch Turns Into Gold” is a more luxurious way to be slowly drawn from uneasy dreams. A lovers’ half-heard whisper (“Hey baby, wake up”) and a slo-mo soft parade of sparse, sparkly synths waving warmly. But it’s the ‘new dawn / new world’ piano weeper “Don’t Disappear” that best folds away the night. “When you’re all alone / Will you miss me all the time?” coos Vicuña in his best shirt. Hey, here comes the sun and it’s alright. Calming. Intoxicating. Fragrant. Its DNA reads “John Hughes soundtrack” and, hey, Molly is smiling. 

It may ‘only’ be a (cough) ‘mixtape’ but Eyedress’ first born Hearing Colors offers a pretty persuasive invitation for living life after dark. A subterranean netherworld where nightmares and dreams can walk hand in hand, and occasionally get chased by an escaped psychopath. What’s not to like? OK well, Vicuña perhaps needs to stronger distinguish himself from similar midnight marauders and maybe entice more of his shadows beyond the two-and-a-half minute mark but hell on this evidence Eyedress’ future seems delightfully, er, dark. As Othello might’ve said, had he not been rudely interrupted, “Put out the light, then put out the light, then put on Hearing Colors”.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/182621-eyedress-hearing-colors/