Sunday, June 15, 2014

Eyeless in Bexhill

I had been playing the eponymously titled debut album by Eyes & No Eyes for the past week and I was intrigued to hear how they would replicate their impressive sound in the confines of a record shop in-store performance. But at Bexhill’s Music’s Not Dead yesterday, replete with drums and amplification, they demonstrated the full range of their tender sonic landscape.

Playing six tracks from the album, they opened with the wintery Hidden Thieves – “the snow it falls upon your street/betrays the movements of my feet” – with singer and guitarist Tristram Bawtree evoking the vocal fragility of Nick Drake over a mesh of guitar and cello. Cellist Becca Mears underpins the band’s sound in the same way that John Cale used strings to create the sonorous and brooding cacophony of the Velvet Underground. With shifting time signatures and improvised lead-ins, the set veers from genre to genre – folk, psychedelia, be-bop – but never quite settling in any.

At the centre of their set is Rust, with Thomas Heather’s thrilling drums and Marcus Hamblett’s intricate bass combining to create the sort of exciting experimental rhythms that New Order discovered in their earliest work, post-Joy Division. On Old Crow, Bawtree belies his youth sounding positively world-weary – “the things I’ve seen, boy/you won’t believe” – and set closer, and album opener, the sprawling Breathe In has the band at its most mournful and powerful. Bawtree’s guitar work is by turns delicate and abrasive as the song builds to a pulsing climax.

I am sure that Eyes & No Eyes would be even more impressive in a larger venue. However, being charmingly vague about future live dates, the Brighton band could only recall one imminent gig, next week at Bethnal Green’s Sebright Arms; but on the second day of their "two-day tour of East Sussex” (they had played the CafĂ© des Artistes in Lewes the night before) there was plenty of evidence that there will be an opportunity to see them on a bigger stage quite soon.

Picture by Dave Stubbings

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