A side project for five sevenths (at least on this release) of Iceland’s Jess And The Ancient Ones, The Exploding Eyes Orchestra has grown from a desire to pursue a less structured approach to songwriting and composing, allowing for formed works to begin life as jams and then be worked into shape collaboratively. Aside from having slightly rougher production than you’ll find on their main band’s work, however, in a blind test you’d be hard pressed to work out that this is technically a different act.
Of the two incarnations within which those involved have taken to existing this rougher, more garage one is probably the more enjoyable listen for those very elements although that point is a slender one. Song topics may certainly be less Occult-related than those of J&TAO and the overall pace somewhat more upbeat (the whacked out ending that first track ‘The Smoke’ builds to is a prime example of this) so it basically comes down to keeping the feel of the core band as a defined article, although recent single ‘Castaneda’ certainly bounds along with a lot more sunshine behind it than on the band’s debut full-length so possibly some unavoidable crossover has already taken place.
As with the UK’s Lola Colt comparisons with Shocking Blue, The Mourning After etc. are inevitable for female-fronted rock bands and TEEO are less likely to escape such things than most, given their heavy use of an organ and the strident vocals that every so often go a bit over the top. Where their sound steps out from beneath that of their parent incarnation is the inclusion of brass elements on ‘My Father The Wolf’ and elsewhere. This markedly helps to push forward the unconstrained feeling generated by the album – one of people messing around with ideas and just pursuing them for the love of it rather than trying to not waste studio time with umpteen takes to get a particular song sounding just right.
It strikes me that every track on this album (and its mooted 2016 follow-up II) could in fact easily fit into the existing set of J&TAO, rather than the band try to tour as their own support act, but that’s just the opinion of one uncreative hack rather than someone with full insight into what Thomas Corpse et al are attempting to achieve with the concept of Jess And The Ancient Ones. As an exercise in letting off steam and not having to think too much about fine-tuning the tiniest elements of compositions, however, I works very well indeed and the band can be proud of what they’ve produced on their busman’s holiday.