Universal Eyes: Four Variations On ‘Artificial Society’ 2LP (Gretchen’s American Tapes, 2018)

June 16, 2018 at 9:26 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Universal Eyes: Four Variations On ‘Artificial Society’ 2LP

Universal Indians pre-dated Wolf Eyes by several years, but they both featured overlapping members, and it seems like Wolf Eyes progressed from them in many ways. At this year’s Trip Metal Fest, Universal Indians members Aaron Dilloway, Gretchen Gonzales, and John Olson reunited, with Wolf Eyes’ Nate Young joining them, forming Universal Eyes. The four musicians recorded a session together in a single day after not having played together in almost 2 decades. Warren Defever mixed and mastered it the next day. A few weeks later, it was completely pressed to vinyl at Third Man in a limited edition of 100 copies, and it was sold at the one-day Trip Metal Fest at El Club. Warren told me it’s easily the fastest turnaround time for a record that he’s ever seen. The album features four sidelong improvisations, and each label features one of the band members’ pictures. There’s no indication of whether that side is “their” side or not, it all sounds like group improvisations. A download card comes with the record, and the digital version of the album suggests that the records are actually meant to be played at 45 RPM, which makes for a very different dynamic. Instead of being slow and trudgy and creepy, it’s much wilder, more chaotic, freer, more ecstatic. It really is two different listening experiences depending on which speed you play it on. I guess that’s true for most records, though. Interpreting the album’s title, it sounds like the music of a fake world, where pop culture has been obliterated, the conventions of music don’t exist, and the few surviving humans have to learn how to make their own instruments and basically reinvent music from the ground up. There’s a stark, minimal drum machine that sound like a dripping faucet at one point, then at other points the rhythms are more hurried and panicking. Dilloway contributes scorching guitar noise and reel-to-reel howls, and Olson plays some truly bizarre reed instruments, sometimes more than one at a time (assuming the recording sessions were anything like their set at TMF). It does sound like variations on a theme, but it approaches it from a few different directions, and even more depending on how you listen.

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