THIRD EYE FOUNDATION - "Collected Works"
(Domino Records - 2006)
From Aural Innovations May 2009 update
This is a little late, but since it seems that Matt Elliot has carved out a little niche for himself in the vastly overpopulated universe of modern electro-music, I think it's worth a mention. (I'll also mention that the first album released as 3EF was "Semtex" in '96, but I assume it wasn't included here because it was not released by Domino. There are various other remixes and compilation tracks as well that did not make these "collected works").It's interesting to me how Elliot developes many various rhythms and drones from samples of strings, particularly cello and violin, and horns as well, while often simultaneously including more discreet string and horn "lead-sounds". There's also an element of super-phased, layered noise- (ok, "shoe-gaze') guitar (and not coincidentally at times reminding one of AMP or Flying Saucer Attack, as these are related projects). I've promised myself I'd use such adjectives as "dark" and "sinister" only once in this review...oops, guess I used 'em up already. It's just that the overall sound is so incessantly freaky that I can only take about an album at a time. Disc 1: From the Ghost album, originally released in '97, "Corpses As Bedmates" really lays on the sickly thick layers of guitar-haze, and a bizarre whistle effect gives the piece yet another schizoid dimension. The bonus tracks for Disc 1 are singles released during that time, and though some of the stuff is closer to pure drum-n-bass ("Semtex", "Science Fiction"), it's still not fitting entirely into that very codified genre: the D'n'B moves are kick-ass but the more acoustic element of drones never play back-seat to the drums. Disc 2 includes the '98 album You Guys Kill Me, the one I've been living with the longest (Merge Records distributed these in the U.S.), and here we have things moving outside of the D'n'B percussive templates to more "trip-hop" beats, and yes even some fake vinyl-ticks. He also leaves much of the guitar-noise behind while going for an even more audacious use of nauseatingly wobbly sinister-string'n'horn loops. "For All The Brothers & Sisters" brilliantly echoes British emergency-horns and voice samples with each other, and playing it very loudly in the work-truck the other day was almost too much for my skittish mental constitution to endure. "An Even Harder Shade of Dark" is a genius groove of the most horrific vibe, and it's a tune like this that seems kindred in spirit to a lot of Angelo Badalamenti's "jazz-noir" stuff produced for David Lynch's series and films, surreal back-wards fx and all, though again "in spirit", as this is rooted in more electroid soil. Closer to album proper "In Bristol With a Pistol" is a wicked trip-hopped chill-outro groove with a slowly building organ-pound zilch-out! There's a bonus extended mix of "Bristol" which adds a flute-riff and some alternate stuff...still not sure if it works or is just too much. Disc 3 is the third and final album Little Lost Soul (released 2000), less harsh and generally not as strong overall, though "What Is It With You" shows that Elliot can handle the more melodious while being still as schizzed-out as anything, the lovely drones complimented by a vast choir of treated operatic voices, slowly building to such a bizarre mood, it's hard to know whether to laugh or cry, especially by the time the ultra-glitched stutter-percussives kick in...fantastic! "Lost" is a lengthy, rather morose acoustic guitar, tango/bosso nova-type piece, with a central vocal, though a bit tedious for me. Closing track of album proper "Goddamnit You've Got To Be Kind" is a nice mellow affair augmented by fx'ed beatboxing before the quiet flutey outro. Disc 3 bonus tracks: A more D'n'B remix of "Galaxy of Scars", though oddly (and perhaps successfully) still maintaining the original trip-hop beat...there's a lot going on here!...part of the same live remix, "Semtex" immediately follows, still carrying the "Galaxy" drones along for a while. There's an edit of "Lost" as well as a remix by Many Fingers...nothing really great...but the strength of the first two discs and "What Is It With You" make this a great package. Would most likely appeal more to fans of Aphex Twin and Squarepusher than those of My Bloody Valentine or Mogwai, but if you dig both styles, this is the sound for you. (And if you can, locate the Silver Apples tribute Electronic Evocations to hear 3EF's excellent noise-addled version of "I Have Known Love"!)
Check out the band web site at: http://www.thirdeyefoundation.com
Reviewed by Chuck