Thursday, November 16, 2006

I've Seen The Light And It Is Dark

I don’t think the Bristol tourist board could have been too happy by the music being produced by the city’s sons and daughters towards the end of the 1990s, despite the outward appearance of it as a hub of creativity. The so-called “Bristol sound” as pioneered by the likes of Tricky, Portishead and Massive Attack painted an unremittingly bleak portrait of the influence the city could have on creative minds. Matt Elliot, recording as The Third Eye Foundation, was another resident whose recorded output was relentlessly dark and uncompromising, in particular the two albums, ‘Ghost’ and ‘You Guys Kill Me’, released in 1997 and 1998, and re-released by the Domino label last week as part of a triple CD package, along with 2000’s ‘Little Lost Souls’. Domino is faultless when it comes to re-releases and ‘Collected Works’ is no exception. Lovingly packaged in a clever foldout slipcase at a bargain price, with the original album artwork for each release, along with a booklet, plus exclusive tracks tagged onto each CD, including never heard before live material. It’s a cracker, make no mistake.

When you look back through the reviews for the albums compiled in ‘Collected Works’, a number of adjectives make repeat appearances - paranoid, apocalyptic, unsettling, doom-laden... Although listening to these albums back-to-back will leave you in no doubt that Elliot’s brand of experimental electronica is not the sort of music you’d play to pull yourself out of a deep depression, there is something hugely inspiring in music that constantly pushes the boundaries of sonic experimentation. Plus, a man who gives tracks titles like ‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feline’ (in honour of a beloved cat who passed away) suggests there is a sense of humour lurking within, and by 2000’s ‘Little Lost Souls’ there was even a sense of post-millennial optimism creeping in, with a more melodic, less claustrophobic sound.

I’ve isolated a few tracks, one from each of the albums, but you really should go and buy it as it is a phenomenal body of work and you really only get to experience this from listening to the whole thing.

The Third Eye Foundation - Semtex (Edit)

I’m posting ‘Semtex (Edit)’, as it was my first introduction to 3EF, when it was released in 1996 as part of Domino’s awesome experimental 12” collection Series 500. Featuring a sample of what sounds like the Islamic Call to Prayer crossed with an air raid siren, tough junglist breaks and distorted effects, the track is as explosive as its title suggests, recalling Squarepusher at his most brutal and bloody-minded.

The Third Eye Foundation - In Bristol With A Pistol

Taken from ‘You Guys Kill Me’ is the album version of ‘In Bristol With a Pistol’. Despite despising the term, I would have to say this is classic trip hop – dark, menacing, nasty trip hop mind you, like the ASBO’ed up, hoodie-wearing, bastard son of Portishead, stalking you down a dark alley to smack you over the head and nick your wallet. Proper nasty.

The Third Eye Foundation - Goddamit You've Got To Be Kind

And acting as something of a respite, I’ve opted for ‘Goddamit You’ve Got To Be Kind’, the epic closing track from the ‘Little Lost Souls’ album. As mentioned before, there was a definite lightening of the mood for this album, as Elliot explains – “I don't think this LP is less spooky; it’s definitely less abrasive, largely because I hear enough noise in every day life, I wanted to make a ‘beautiful’ record. Something a bit sombre, something to melt hearts; that was the intention.” I think he succeeded. A frenetic sampled beatbox drives the first half of the track, at complete odds with the languid shifting strings and eerie sampled vocals, before the closing section of warm beatless ambience brings the album to a melodious climax.

Buy ‘Collected Works’ from Norman Records for the bargain price of £10.45. For three stunning albums! Plus bonus tracks! Do it! Now!
The Third Eye Foundation website
Matt Elliot at My Space
Buy The Third Eye Foundation catalogue from Norman Records
Visit the Domino website