Colin Stetson, Greg Fox and Shahzad Ismaily, all revered musicians with collaborations ranging from Feist to Liturgy, first came together for Stetson's devastating "reimagining" of Górecki's third symphony last year. Now a quartet rounded out by composer, improviser and collaborator Toby Summerfield, who's been part of over 10 bands and projects, the Stetson-led EX EYE are pursuing transcendence through aggression on their debut LP.
EX EYE sounds like "XI," which is the Roman numeral for 11, and look at that — there is an 11-pointed star on the album cover (around an eye, no less). Is this meant to be a trippy numerology thing? Or a just a subtle Spinal Tap reference about amps going up to 11? The open-endedness only enhances the fun of this first outing.
One technique Stetson is fond of is making the downbeat of a chord change or key change feature the new lowest note in the song, dropping the harmonic floor out from under you. This can be heard on opener "Xenolith; The Anvil" at 01:27. Elsewhere, the 12-minute "Opposition/Perihelion; The Coil" builds tension with taut 2/3 polyrhythm before the tension peaks about five minutes in. A moody, doomy mid-section sets in, during which Stetson's circular breathing-fuelled arpeggios and ghostly, blown-out melodies shine. Synth noise bubbles up around the ninth minute, and the drums drop away in the tenth for an atmospheric outro that tastefully leads into the drone-y (but equally ferocious) textures of "Anaitis Hymnal; The Arkose Disc."
These musicians understand that heaviness is most effective when balanced by some light, making their debut both inventively punishing and soaring. (Relapse)