Eyes On the Elbows’ debut album Decay is far from a state of festering decomposition, since on every track you see colors dancing in a sometimes fury escape of wild emotions, to a slow disappearance of a strange moss that is plantae. Maybe the idea is that, within decay there is growth, movement, since decay itself is organic matter. In which case, Decay, the album, achieves this process of transcendence, as it uses many popular niches of previous soundscapes, zeitgeists, what have you, and reinvents them. Well of course, the band itself is not even a band, but a very diverse community of musicians coming together by exact chance for jam sessions. This experience is possibly very reminiscent of the collective Broken Social Scene, the exception being, Eyes On the Elbows sound is taking, involving, not only the decay of indie music, but music that was once popular, that are now worn and cast aside into the ether.
Decay begins with Broken Country. A creeping guitar, nostalgic in its purposeful delivery, time travels to when punk and post-punk was a thing, and bands like the Gang of Four were rebelling against the superstructure. Broken Country enlightens and links this commonality of the social and political ills of society to as far back as when “civilization” began. This seems evident with the well placed medieval, grand opera, vocals mixed alongside tribal drumming. We return to the 20th century with the introduction of jazz saxophone, which not only marks a new and different musical direction for Broken Country, but as well demonstrates how much that has been learnt, “discovered,” but yet socially things are exactly the same. The presence of the accelerant nature of contemporary technology further amplifies how drastically behind social progress is against technological advancements.
This imbalance is sharply recognizable in Decay’s second track, Raise Your Heads, as the song’s usage of contemporary tools manically implodes, explodes, and finally collapses. Raise Your Head’s hinting of the musical genre Jungle and its derivative, Drum and Bass, demystifies, rejects, and welcomes the idea of the drum-machine. The ghosts of the past are rediscovered and are digitally dressed up in the song’s refraining chant: Raise your heads above your phones. The song passionately expresses extreme, dangerous anxiety, which is pretty much how we avoidingly exist. The suggestion in Einstein’s famous quote is immensely felt: I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots. His fearful posit exposed something far greater than idiocy, but more indicative of the growth of complex irrationality.
We are brought back to the breath on Subterfuge, as the song invites everything that is ignored. The breath existing in this sound waits, allows for gills to respire, for photosynthesis to be discovered. The patience held in every motion, alive in each phrase as subtlety flutters, are the whys we want to communicate with each other. In the simplistic vocal phonetic of Subterfuge’s initial tum tum tah, it describes the wonders of internal beauty, small galaxies under-discovered. Larger than the confusing guile of what is presented, these small galaxies in tum tum tah are given realization, to acquaint themselves, dream even expansively further than a passage of the allowed kind of acceptance that is “journey.”
Subterfuge’s sudden ending destroys the found cohesion of the breath. The introduction of the thickly synced riff of the horns with the heavy bass on Thirteen (when I Was) nomadically drags an uncertain travel. Uncertainties that are richly layered, hypnotically romantic enough for intrigue. The bass’s wide-reaching risk of a recurring evocation reveals an existing foreboding in its distorted melodies. There is nothing safe about this wandering. It is perspicuously suspect, even in the voicing of the horns’ fleeing mirth; there still is devastation.
California Chill is comforting, especially with its wanting to relieve that hunger for reciprocity. Lampooning its glee, the song plays upon the bright shimmers of appearances, while there is a sickening buried deep within. Its rhapsody is almost a Shakespearean soliloquy, a scene of falsehoods displayed as cinematic fashion that is a mirage, a “vision.” The lethargic dream like guitar riffs déjà vus an action to wake up, but its repetitive executions is a defeatist attack against a consistent sleepwalking, a chemically altered state. California Chill expresses an addictive want for a panacea, as it liquidly glaze effortless ease.
The parody does not end with California Chill, it continues in the less sophisticated track Ptandr’usk. Ptandr’usk’s lack of sophistication has everything to do with the song’s deliberate efforts at expressing buffoonery. What better way to do this, but by listening in on a conversation between two teenage boys speaking in German about their exploits at a party. The seriousness of their account is the butt of the joke, as the song’s instrumentation indulges and teases this dialog, while simultaneously snickering on the side. The use of droning techno give rise to this experience, as the environment slips from being in a video arcade to a club, where the walls are a living pulse; where all inhibitions are abandoned, and one cannot help but lose themselves in a wild dance.
Responsive to Ptandr’usk’s buffoonery, So What Do You Want returns to Decay’s unchanging narrative: the search for clarity. It moans a very human condition; the experience of loss resonates from the onset of its introduction. The barrenness of its instrumentation spotlights a core of soulful longing, which the bass and drums drives forward. Their rhythm and blues riff patterns maintains a grounding for the vocals and other instruments to delve into and investigate. So What Do You Want begs for answers in its tonality, and its lyricism portrays this predicament.
Decay ends its kaleidoscopic undertaking with the instrumental track Not The Best of the Evenings. The track attempts to thread a closure for all the avenues, alleys, vestiges existing in the album. Even though Not The Best of the Evenings’ jazz fusion style is an intellectual endeavor for closure, it does not pretentiously reconcile Decay’s conundrum. It however brings about more ceaseless questions, but it appears that there is a level of placidity with this acknowledgement, which is completely satisfying.
You can stream the entire album here: