In a pre-release interview for the i EP, Eaux frontwoman Sian Ahern heartily praised the merits of the EP as an art form, enthusing of it as “a beautiful, somewhat forgotten format… kind of like a novella or a taster menu,” – sentiments that strike true at the heart of i. It acts like a love letter to the format; its five tracks each pursuing their own sonic trajectories, offering a degree of experimentation seldom found on a single. What we get is five rarely-overlapping depictions of a band whose sound is constantly expanding as they chart the highways between minimal electronica, post-rock and jazzier terrain.
Opener ‘i’ begins with a delicate xylophone figure balanced wearily on the precipice between the childlike and the sinister, resting in a state of equilibrium that could tumble at any moment. It quickly creeps towards the latter though as several slithery guitar figures intersect and punish its uncertainness of direction – listening to these metallic, cavernous guitar lines serves as an instant reminder that the trio behind Eaux are former members of cult post-rockers The Sian Alice Group.
‘New Peaks’ continues the record’s slow lurch into ominous territory. Beginning with a gently ringing series of wind chimes underpinned by buzzing guitars, it eventually secedes into steadier beats and a series of vocals that recall a less melodramatic, more moody Elizabeth Fraser. ‘Snow’, meanwhile, pursues calmer waters; its opening jazz-lounge chords and serene vocals evoking a tranquillity rarely found on i. The following track ‘Hold On’ briefly flirts with this sense of peacefulness before being overtaken by piercing feedback and a descending piano motif that recalls video game villain music in its almost cartoonish caricaturing of malice.
‘Too Dark to Tell’ rounds things out nicely with its succinct, pulsating guitars making for the record’s sparest moment. It revels in a sense of loneliness that’s emphasised by Ahern’s reverb-laden musings, which veer between almost subconscious cries of deep-cut emotional trauma and pre-meditated considerations of good and evil. It’s a scarce closing to proceedings but ‘Too Dark’ also marks one of i’s most infatuating moments; we as listeners are drawn to Ahern’s vulnerability here, almost as if we’re searching for answers in the track’s virtually nonsensical narrative. Whatever it is, there’s a definite feeling of ever-increasing returns with each repeat listen to i; its five diverse tracks bearing the fruits of a band evolving in all directions. At just under half-an-hour in length, it’s perfect for brief explorations into a darker, more poetic, and at times lonelier world.
- Alex Cull