A couple of years back, I reviewed a
self-titled EP from North Carolina act Eyes to Space. I liked their somewhat quirky electronic/Indie pop sound that ranged from the aggressively mathy to angular pop, and wondered how they would fair in the future. After a bit of a delay, the band released their first full length album, From the Bureau of Robotic Affairs, and then promptly disbanded, which is a bit of a shame, but not too surprising considering the transient nature of so many bands.
In some senses, then, From the Bureau of Robotic Affairs is
Eyes to Space's legacy – the final statement of their goals and music ambition.
And, with this in mind, the 12 songs represented on the record do in fact show
off a myriad of skills and musical styles. Of course, 4 of the songs in question
(In an Unfamiliar Land, Dear Sir, Destructive Behavior,
and Roadkill) showed up earlier on that afore-mentioned EP. I believe
these may not be in the same mixes as previously, but otherwise the songs remain
more or less the same. However, with two intervening years, I have to confess
that the extremely angular and aggressive Roadkill ages less well than
the floating pop of Destructive Behavior Nevertheless, my earlier impressions
of these four songs more or less stand.
But what then of the other songs? Several of the tunes of the records revisit the angularity of Roadkill, albeit with more rampant melodicism than is found on that song. As an example, Pathways to Progress is an instrumental with the aggressive guitar work, whose main melody is found on a series of keyboard/organ parts, which make the sound both more approachable and happy. Likewise, Eyes to Space brings lyrics to this same hard, aggressive pop, which has the same sensibility as an old-school Atlanta band like Toenut. Similarly, Small Aisles…All Smiles strays almost into metal territory with its frenetic pace and guitar solos, before moving into a slow, arpeggioed lyrical melody.
But it is on the slower, more epic tunes that Eyes to Space really shines. Stranded, for instance, begins with this pretty little piano sound which swells with some pretty instrumentation before the band moves into a slightly flat but very emphatic vocal bit. Yet the combination of melody and forcefulness seems more natural on this tune than on some of the earlier songs Likewise, the spacily creepy Chainlink Fence plays with the listener's mood and expectations by combining a simple vibraphone ping with a screeching guitar to create a sonic experience that works on several levels. Over it all, vocalist Jay Cartwright performs an echoed lyric while harder bass and drums come in. Taken as a whole, this song feels somewhat psychedelic while still maintaining its more modern sensibility.
However, it is during the album's last song that I really begin to feel the loss of Eyes to Space and their potential. Architect Humbled by Airport Collapse is an instrumental tune that has an aura of reflection about it which points to where the band may have progressed had they remained together. It begins slowly with a single note echoing over and over again. Afterwards, the keyboards come in with several slight chords, under which comes a carnivalesque melody. It's a very lovely, very methodical song that is neither plodding nor dull. And, as such, it's perhaps the perfect swansong for Eyes to Space.
Listening to a record after a band is no more is always an interesting experience. it's like you're listening to their musical elegy, from which you know nothing else can come. And, as a document of their existence and their loss, From the Bureau of Robotic Affairs inadvertently succeeds, and makes me at least mourn this band of which few will ever hear.