The gradual emergence of more and better low-barrier tools for the creation and dissemination of media has reached unprecedented heights in recent years, and the impact on popular music has been substantial. Who could have imagined the rise of Soundcloud rappers even a decade ago? While minimalist and DIY approaches to music are hardly new, the pared-down aesthetic certainly seems to be experiencing a kind of renaissance in which musicians have a low-maintenance array of electric and acoustic sounds at their fingertips and can use them to run the gamut from preternaturally tweaked and polished to raw and rustic. And it can all sound cool.
Manila-based singer-songwriter and producer Eyedress – also known as Idris Vicuña, both drummer and frontperson for Bee Eyes – sounds extremely cool on his new solo release Let’s Skip to the Wedding. It’s a jaggedly dreamy assemblage of sounds sorted into 19 relatively brief tracks for a final product that is both temporally compact and imaginatively expansive, all wrapped in vintage shoegaze ephemera. Vicuña’s unassuming voice, low to the point of mumbling at times, is convincingly disaffected and intimately dissonant as it slips between tinny drum machine beats, jangly electric guitar, and chameleon synths. Rarely does it approach the forefront, further underscoring the importance of atmosphere.
Cohesive in aura, the album still has a mixtape feel to it, quick cuts artfully disjointed, plugged-in instruments slightly warbly, and each track a distinct moment, some particularly sublime. “Never Been to Prom” layers pillowy electronics over stretched-out funk grooves for a psychedelic take on disco. Auto-Tuning distorts the vocals on “Mystical Creatures Best Friend” into mechanical echoes, while closing track “Anything for You” is a quintessential indie rock ballad. Faster cuts like “Let’s Skip to the Wedding”, “Jealous”, and non-single standout “Happy Hour” squeeze all possible sonic elements together in dense melodic ostinati over simple, driving rhythms.
Stitching these together are offbeat scraps like “Romantic Lover”, a minute and a half of Vicuña giving near-monotone vocals over sharp, looping synths. In a similar vein, “Never Want to Be Apart” sees the guitar taking instrumental priority. Meanwhile, the angrier, edgier “I Don’t Wanna Be Your Friend” makes for a more energetic use of Vicuña’s deadpan vocal delivery. Though more extended, “Trauma” similarly riffs on a brief, ethereal musical theme, its motion an omnidirectional drift rather than a linear path, a counterpoint to straightforward synthpop track “X-Girl”.
As its title implies, Let’s Skip to the Wedding is ultimately emotionally-driven, Vicuña complementing his sonic openness with lyrics based around the personal and often impulsive, a sincere emotional core that grounds the aural experimenting. The expressions here need not be new (“Yes, you’re my lover / There is no other” sings Vicuña at the end of “Romantic Lover”) to find unique presentation. At the same time, the sounds need not fit a single mold to be deeply individual. The total of sentiment and innovation is ultimately the vital heart of Vicuña’s work. Let’s Skip to the Wedding is a showcase of remarkable range and bold clatter, and Eyedress, a cool artist with clear intentions whose good head for ingenuity and handmade music helps him fan creative sparks into full-blown fires.