Time is an ocean in which we swim. We may think of it as a river that flows in one direction but allows us to look back at where we have been, but this is merely the way in which we perceive and experience it. No, make no mistake – time is an ocean, vast and dark. The parts we see are only the miniscule trail of silvery bubbles made in our own individual wake.
What does this preamble have to do with The Eye Of Time? Well, what this recording is, is a processed and considered rendering of the trail left behind so far by one man – Marc Euvrie.
A veteran of the French hardcore scene, Euvrie has been working on The Eye Of Time for some eight years, all said, and it shows – this recording is vast. Covering two CD’s or three – count ’em – three LP’s the sheer volume and scope of the material that Euvrie has constructed is breathtaking. So much so that this review has taken an uncommonly long time to write, even by my less-than-speedy standards. Processing this monolithic undertaking has been an ongoing process that has, time and again, left me dumbfounded and unsure of exactly how to write about it.
The mass of material concocted for this project is not just confined to music, oh no, as Euvrie spent two of those eight years putting together a parallel visual accompaniment to the sounds contained within The Eye Of Time. A 30 page booklet is included with both the CD and LP formats of the recording, and each image therein contains a fragment of his story, his worldview.
Synced up to what is essentially twenty tracks of music, spread across three overarching sections, that is one hell of a lot of audio-visual information to take in and process. Now, seeing as how my usual method of review is to repeatedly listen to a recording, taking in and considering as much as I physically can in order to give the most in-depth coverage possible, you can see how this monolith would waylay me. Actually, that’s an understatement – it completely stopped me dead in my tracks for a long while. I blush to admit how long this review has been gestating, but trust me, it hasn’t been out of laziness.
I can hear and feel exactly how important this recording is to Euvrie. The blood, sweat, tears, joy, pain, sorrow, hunger, and sheer self that have gone into making every single goddamn aspect of The Eye Of Time are etched into the grooves, the pores of it like the lines on the face of experience. I don’t want to fuck this up or sell Euvrie short. This means too much.
Broadly speaking, The Eye Of Time is an electronica record that touches on drum ‘n’ bass very frequently, IDM on a number of occasions and has elements of Musique Concrète running through it. Comparison-wise, we’re talking broadly in the same church as latter-day Ulver, Autechre, PanSonic, Tim Hecker and Demdike Stare, although, to be fair, in many ways The Eye Of Time really stands apart from these others due to its sheer scope and scale. It really is an epic, in the truest sense of the word.
The first arc of Euvrie’s story is a relatively short one entitled ‘Lily On The Valley’, ushered in by a slightly roughened arpeggiated keyboard riff, shot through by a whirling Sonic Youth-esque drone and driven by an intensely furious jungle-style rhythmic workout. The rumpled prettiness of the keyboard part goes some way toward taking the fierce edge off of the drum pattern, but it’s still gnarly as hell.
From here we plunge into the first arc proper, ‘After Us’, and Euvrie’s methodology becomes clear. His palette is based around layered samples, scavenged magpie-like from many different sources, cello parts played and manipulated by Euvrie himself, crunching and skittering beats, a healthy dose of electronic trickery, loops, drones and piano – all of these ingredients are layered and smushed together to help Euvrie express his experiences and feelings in musical form.
Vocals are few and far between, mostly confined to samples – choirs and female vocals are used texturally throughout, a crying baby can be heard amidst a flurry of beats and maudlin piano, and Zach De La Rocha’s ‘all of which are American dreams’ vocal is cut and looped at one point during the ‘After Us’ arc. The overall feeling that pervades this section is one of sadness and a sense of resignation. The looped and treated vocal samples, piled on top of one another, mixed with mournful sounding orchestral loops may be driven by occasionally frenetic jungle-style drum breaks, but the feeling of bone-tired weariness and hopelessness cuts through everything.
The third and final arc, ‘Jail’, rides in off the back of a seriously swinging drum loop, layered with string flurries and often cut into awkward glitchy rhythms seemingly at random. A looped sample of laughter adds no levity, however, is the overwhelming feel here is of desperation. The drumbeat tightens into a swung shuffle as descending organ chords skate across the top of things. Beneath we can hear breaking glass, screams and various random sounds – pandemonium.
Moving through the arc, we hit ‘Jail – Time Has Come’ and it feels like walking smack into a brick wall. A terse, dramatic orchestral stab repeats mechanically as a series of droning horns begin to sound, quickly creating a dense wall of brassy sound. Wordless chants are layered atop the mass creating a monolithic structure through which no light can break. The whole thing finally collapses into nothing but the initial stabs and smashing, shattering percussive blasts.
The final movements of ‘Jail’ move from scattershot percussive skittering, subdued piano and wavering synth through to the atonal processed keys, murky atmospherics and blood-curdling yells that herald the very end. The sheer oppressive weight here drowns out the feeling of simmering anger and despair as it boils over into barely articulated fury. It’s all for naught.
Look, I’ll level with you here – The Eye Of Time is not an easy listen. No light breaks through the tightly constructed edifice that Euvrie has built with his own two hands, and the oppression is tangible. No, easy this is not, but is it a rewarding listen?
Absolutely, without question.
I’ve given rather a large chunk of my time over to taking this colossus on board, processing it and then attempting to decode it enough to spill its entrails out over the page for you to pick over, and I still don’t feel like I’ve got anywhere near to the heart of it, but bearing in mind that it’s taken eight years of Euvrie’s life to complete, I suspect I’ll still be diving into its depths and coming up short for quite some time yet.
This one will stay with you.
Scribed by: Paul Robertson