With some true greats and only a few minor slipups, 'See Without Eyes' is a brilliant album by one of the best electronic artists on the scene.
It’s been four years since the last major release from the California-based electronic group The Glitch Mob, and fans (such as myself) have been eagerly-anticipating their return to the music scene. Finally, we have gotten our wish with the third studio album, See Without Eyes, releasing last week. But was it worth the wait, and have the group created something which remains continuous to their previous work whilst remaining new and innovative?
The line between formulaic and alienating is a tremendously difficult one to tread for all artists. Love, Death, Immortality, the group’s second LP, was a clear evolution of their first, Drink the Sea, without straying too far from the sounds that brought about their initial success. See Without Eyes, on the other hand, is very much a synthesis of both albums. There are few totally-unique tracks, with the result almost like a compilation of songs they cut from their previous LPs. Nevertheless, it works pretty well, reminding us of their roots as well as their continued growth and experimentation.
The record kicks off strongly with ‘Enter Formless’ (featuring Rituals of Mine), a pleasing throwback to the synthwave stylings of Drink the Sea. The track has an almost extraterrestrial soundscape, and is accompanied by an effective use of drums. As a track that seems destined to become a single, it’s pretty damn catchy and never outstays its welcome. Second up is ‘Take Me With You’ (featuring Arama), a more subtle sophomore piece boasting some sweet guitar riffs and an unobtrusive lyrical accompaniment. Whilst it lacks the same showmanship as ‘Enter Formless’, it’s still got plenty of charisma to spare. ‘Disintegrate Slowly’, a song which seems destined to end up on Thanos’ playlist, comes out fighting, with some piercing and aggressive sounds. What could easily end up being grating is saved by a pleasant use of ambient noise, and just enough quiet downtime to prevent the song from overheating. ‘Keep on Breathing’ (featuring Tula) is a haunting addition to the album. With some truly ominous vocals and a persistent heartbeat-style drumming, it invokes images of a long descent into the afterlife.
Unfortunately, following this strong quartet of tracks is ‘Come Closer’, a full-on assault on your ears with some awful screeching that ends up so loud I actually thought my headphones were starting to crack up. I can just imagine this song playing as one is converted into a Cyberman. Luckily, this is as bad as it gets. ‘I Could be Anything’ (featuring Elohim) is the strongest track on the album, with the same powerful juxtaposition between the traditional Glitch sounds and affecting, heartfelt lyrics that worked so well for ‘Beauty of the Unhidden Heart’ on the last album. ‘Interbeing’ is a curio – an intergalactic lullaby with some truly bizarre sounds. It’s the most different thing on the album, for better or worse, and it stands apart from any of their previous works. ‘How Could This Be Wrong’, the second track to feature Tula on the album, proves that she is a great collaborator, providing some fantastic vocals for a track that sounds more “Hollywood Action Movie” than anything that has come before it.
‘Go Light’ plays like an electronic hymn, with a strange divine sound to it, as though it were accompanied by a church organ. ‘How Do I Get to Invincible’ is a neat inversion of the band’s formula. with an emphasis on vocals over soundscape, which makes it sound strangely-peaceful. Finally, the album’s coda, ‘Way Out is In’, sends off the record with a soft and melodic beat that evokes floating atop an electronic cloud. It’s an odd, but brave, way for The Glitch Mob to conclude the LP.
Overall, See Without Eyes is a solid record. There may not be a wealth of truly-standout tracks within its number but there is only one major dud, and it’s a thoroughly-enjoyable album throughout. It takes few risks but what few attempts at complete innovation that it makes serve as proof that this group have a certain distinctive sound that they are better off sticking to. Oh, and lest I forget, they made the entire album listenable on their YouTube channel, which is just a swell gesture by a band that clearly cares deeply about their fans.
See Without Eyes is out now via Glass Air Records