Album of the Week: Eyedress – ‘Hearing Colors’

17.04.14

Released for free last Thursday, Eyedress’ debut mixtape ‘Hearing Colors’ collects material made by 23-year-old Idris Vicuña over the past couple of years in his bedroom in Manila, the Philippines. 

Eyedress makes dark, vocal synth pop with a shimmer and polish that’s far more advanced than his modest means of production might suggest (the mixtape was made entirely on an old laptop handed down to him by his father, an animator). Crystalline synths, rumbling arpeggiations, and cool, impassive vocals litter almost every track, which have a moody, twilit vibe, a mixture of the noir disco aesthetic that Johnny Jewel perfected across the Italians Do It Better catalogue and the rhythms of modern rap. Granted, Eyedress’ sound isn’t exactly a radical one – it was already familiar a few years ago, and it’s only grown in popularity since the release of Drive – but his music really does go beyond the cosmetic elements of this sound, not just in terms of melodies, vocal, and songwriting, but in its lyrical content.

Eyedress’ music succeeds in the way that the shadowy instrumentals interact with lyrics of nihilism and self-defeatism, soundtracking a sad, desolate nightlife. If there’s anger here, it’s a useless, frustrated anger: “I’ve been doing drugs ‘cos I don’t give a fuck,” Vicuña sings, plain-speaking, on Nature Trips, “I just wanna forget everything that's making me feel bad.” And what goes up must come down: on Everything We Touch Turns Into Gold, he sounds vulnerable and tired, closing the songs with cries of “I still think of you.” It’s teenaged and angsty, but it doesn’t make it any less truthful. The vocals either come from Vicuña himself – whose high-pitched, reverb-soaked whisper contrasts with his plain, masculine lyrics – or by vocal collaborator Skint Eastwood, whose pale voice and detached presence makes any track that she appears on a highlight.

There are problems with ‘Hearing Colors’, but as a free mixtape, these hardly count as significant flaws. Occasionally it suffers for a lack of variety, with only the final three tracks – Mountbatten, Everything We Touch Turns Into Gold, and Don’t Disappear – deviating from the tone of the rest of the mixtape, offering light at the end of the tunnel. Similarly, much of the material has been available in the past online or on last year’s ‘Supernatural’ EP (in fact, a limited vinyl run of the mixtape was released early last year, albeit with a different sequencing). 

What’s most interesting about it is that ‘Hearing Colors’ is a stopgap for future material, so while the music might not be up to scratch just yet, it does raise the prospect of what comes next. In the last year, Eyedress has signed to Abeano, married his girlfriend, and has spent the past few months living in London. In short, life is looking up, and it should be interesting to see where Vicuña takes his music in light of these altogether more uplifting changes.

7/10

Eyedress self-released 'Hearing Colors' on April 10th 2014 (download).