The Third Eye Foundation The Third Eye FoundationThe Dark
At the end of the 90’s, when its career was already coming to an end, The Third Eye Foundation had become a project with a toxic lyrical quality, which projected violence towards the listener in an absorbing, subtle way, using psychology rather than brute strength. Even so, people usually consider the band that Matt Elliott led for ten years (as almost always the only band member) to be an unhealthy noise terrorist cell, a worm planted to rot from within the indie apple basket with a dislocated drum’n’bass, guitars that oozed a rust, rage, and noise that could rock the very foundations of the Rockefeller Center (Elliott’s transgression surpassed the musical to embrace the political, so I’m sure that he would agree with this comparison).
The public, then, remembers the fulminating aggressiveness of “ Semtex” (Linda’s Strange Vacation, 1996) and the dramatic panic of “ Ghost” (Domino, 1997), his first two albums, but it seems to have forgotten that after those two pieces, Elliott started to work with forms more interested in melody and repetition (repetition from a classical point of view, with a minimalist vocation); these forms used samples of acoustic instruments to create claustrophobic, ghostly atmospheres, which sounded both Martian and strangely familiar at the same time (a little like Henry Selick’s films, so that we understand each other). As a result of this evolution, the songs from this last period, especially those in “ Little Lost Soul” (Domino, 2000), convey an uncomfortable feeling of danger; they turned listeners’ stomachs, but at the same time, they forced them to pay attention, hypnotised by so much affliction and sadness. This is a paradox that worked the best with “ Lost ”, a devastating ten-minute suite that was the centre of gravity of “Little Lost Soul”, and with the lovely remix of “ La Dispute ”, an original by Yann Tiersen, which also opens the recommendable compilation of remixes “ I Poo Poo On Your Juju”, released posthumously by Domino in 2001.
It seemed logical, after that, for Elliott to take away the radicalism from his music, abandoning his sillier pseudonym in favour of his own name, and starting to record albums of songs (songs in a classical sense) in which the electronic was notably absent. In the end, the course he had followed seemed to have reached an end, and if one is faced with a change, it’s better to make it a radical one, that burying everything that tires you. Particularly, aspects like how boring he found it to perform The Third Eye Foundation songs live. “There was no expression,” he admitted in an interview a few years ago. “All I could do was press a few buttons and that’s boring to watch although the sound was sometimes fantastic. But playing and singing can be really great when it all works, there’s no feeling like coming off after a good show.”
I’m telling you all of this because the new album from The Third Eye Foundation, released, by surprise, ten years after “Little Lost Soul” (sort of a surprise: last year some remixes were released under this alias), represents both a continuation and a new beginning—it also represents another turn in his career, after the evident creative stagnation implied by his fifth album as Matt Elliott, “Failed Songs” (Ici D’Ailleurs, 2009), but that is another story. At a formal level, it seems like a continuation, enlarged in every aspect, of what “Lost” already offered: the drum’n’bass rhythms in slow motion, the various blurry loops overlaying each other, the sound effects punctuating the subtle variations, the lines of piano tinting the whole in shades of melancholy, the ghostly choruses slipping out through loopholes in the complex framework of the song. It’s all there, amplified and magnified, stretched out over forty asphyxiating minutes in which instruments never stop appearing and disappearing, with the occasional breath of intimacy or explosion of noise also managing to slide their way in. Forty minutes that make up the hard core of “The Dark”, and which are divided into four sections: “Ahnedonia”, which gradually reveals the work’s melodic motifs; “Standard Deviation”, which adds oppressive atmospheres and a great deal of ambiental electricity; “Pareidolia”, which plays at distorting and accelerating the rhythms, in a strange play of tensions; and “Closure”, in which a string section floats over the whole, a whole that crackles with wailing, noises, and cacophony, and which is finally lost in the sustained drones of the piano and the cello. The piece, magnificent and devastating, brings The Third Eye Foundation back through the front door, a project that no longer settles for remaining on the margins of electronic music: it crosses the boundaries with the neoclassical and it settles there, claiming its own space. And if we say that apart from a continuation, it is also a new beginning, it is because even though the ideas are very similar to those developed in the band’s first phase, this time real instruments are important: pianos, guitars, strings, woodwinds, and percussions, played by Elliott himself and his two collaborators, Louis Warynski (from Chapelier Fou) and Chris Cole (alias Manyfingers). This is a crew that also guarantees the staging of such a magnetic piece.
So it’s a pity that Elliott decided to spoil “The Dark” by including a last song, provocatively called “If You Treat Us All Like Terrorists We Will Become Terrorists”, but which really, as an old acquaintance says, seems like a reclaiming of some old files, found in a corner of his hard disk. It’s a minor piece, unworthy of the album and of the author’s talent, and it seems like it’s only there so that old fans (defenders of “Semtex” and “Ghost,” that is to say) will feel comfortable. To tell the truth, I myself prefer the new version of the band. And somebody bring them somewhere nearby to play, please.
The Third Eye Foundation - If You Treat Us All Like Terrorists We Will Become Terrorists