Music

Ex Eye: Ex Eye

Publicity photo via Bandcamp

Led by Colin Stetson and augmented by drummer Greg Fox, Ex Eye makes a black metal/jazz amalgam that is cathartic in its athleticism.


Ex Eye

Ex Eye

Label: Relapse
US Release Date: 2017-06-23
UK Release Date: 2017-06-23
Amazon
iTunes

Ex Eye is the latest project from experimental saxophonist Colin Stetson. Alongside him is drummer Greg Fox of Liturgy, keyboardist Shahzad Ismaily, and guitarist Toby Summerfield. Although Stetson is top-billed in the project, Ex Eye reveals itself to be an egalitarian group, where each member makes pretty incredible contributions. For a band that's only been together for under two years, the level of interplay here is pretty staggering. Ex Eye has also been described as metal, but that doesn't quite do it justice. The album opens with "Xenolith: The Anvil", which starts with workmanlike drums and synths to push us forward, sounding like Rush's anthemic, stadium-filling marches, albeit completely robbed of the color and wonder that Geddy Lee injects into that band. Stetson's saxophone begins filling in melodic gaps and the song takes a turn into something much more expansive and forceful. It's probably the most conventionally "rock" song on the album, but it's still undeniably huge and powerful.

The other lengthy three songs that make up Ex Eye bridge it closer to an amalgam of black metal of the Emperor variety and a kind of minimalist jazz/noise music. Throughout, Stetson voices repetitive figures on his saxophone that provide a bed for the rest of the instrumentation. At times, he fills the role that you'd more quickly expect a keyboard to play; there is a loping, circular quality to what he's doing that reminds one of the repetitive figures in Philip Glass's rhythms. Frequently sounding purely locomotive, Stetson provides an undulating foundation on which the other players can build upon. Basing the rhythm often around a woodwind instrument gives the music a constant uneasiness. It's a truly athletic achievement.

The same can be said for Greg Fox's drumming on each of the pieces. Longtime the secret weapon of Liturgy's power, Fox shows that he can play forceful arena rock drums like John Bonham, but he also can take this sense of force and execution to the more intense and, frankly, crazy cymbal and kick drum work he does on the epic "Opposition/Perihelion: The Coil" and "Anaitis Hymnal; The Akrose Disc". On the latter track, as the other players warp their instrumentations into a Wagnerian wall of sound, Fox provides the music's heartbeat -- the human pulse amid the storm. "Anaitis Hymnal; The Akrose Disc" is one of the album's highlights, illustrating Ex Eye's expert balance of expressive, explosive control. After a crescendo at the midway point, the instruments turn into a roiling distortion wave as Fox plays an unpredictable percussion line that leads the band back into another black metal tinged assault by the song's end. By being freed of conventional metal songwriting and experimentation, Fox is able to experiment with his fills and play the leader when the other instrumentalists cede control to him. It's a thrill to listen to.

Shahzad's synths and Summerfield's guitar are just as necessary to this music as Stetson or Fox's playing. Shahzad vacillates between providing bridge-cable-thick bass lines and distorted waves of sound that are practically tactile. At other times, he's able to augment the sound in startling ways; there are a few instances during "Opposition/Perihelion: The Coil" in which you could swear that you're hearing a human voice when it's actually Shahzad's effects. Summerfield's guitar splits the difference between classicist, rockist fills and more clean, lyrical passages that remind one of Adrian Belew. Together, Shahzad and Summerfield lend Ex Eye a more melodic and human touch, providing brief breaks in the aggressive maelstrom throughout.

Ex Eye's self-titled debut is an intriguing amalgam of black metal, progressive rock, minimalism, and free jazz while not sounding of a piece with any representative artist from those genres. Like fellow maverick saxophonist John Zorn, Stetson is paving his own way through the waters of extreme music, making albums that make catharsis physical.

8

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Music

The World of Captain Beefheart: An Interview with Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx

Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

Guitarist and band leader Gary Lucas and veteran vocalist Nona Hendryx pay tribute to one of rock's originals in this interview with PopMatters.

From the opening bars of "Suction Prints", we knew we had entered The World of Captain Beefheart and that was exactly where we wanted to be. There it was, that unmistakable fast 'n bulbous sound, the sudden shifts of meter and tempo, the slithery and stinging slide guitar in tandem with propulsive bass, the polyrhythmic drumming giving the music a swing unlike any other rock band.

Keep reading... Show less

From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

Keep reading... Show less

Acid house legends 808 State bring a psychedelic vibe to Berlin producer NHOAH's stunning track "Abstellgleis".

Berlin producer NHOAH's "Abstellgleis" is a lean and slinky song from his album West-Berlin in which he reduced his working instruments down to a modular synthesizer system with a few controllers and a computer. "Abstellgleis" works primarily with circular patterns that establish a trancey mood and gently grow and expand as the piece proceeds. It creates a great deal of movement and energy.

Keep reading... Show less

Beechwood offers up a breezy slice of sweet pop in "Heroin Honey" from the upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod.

At just under two minutes, Beechwood's "Heroin Honey" is a breezy slice of sweet pop that recalls the best moments of the Zombies and Beach Boys, adding elements of garage and light tinges of the psychedelic. The song is one of 10 (11 if you count a bonus CD cut) tracks on the group's upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod out 26 January via Alive Natural Sound Records.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image