Shield Your Eyes - Volume 4 (Function)

A welcome fourth record from Shield Your Eyes.

Released Oct 24th, 2011 via Function / By Paul Robertson
Shield Your Eyes - Volume 4 (Function) Tricksy post-hardcore trio Shield Your Eyes strip things right back here on Volume 4, their.....uhh.....fourth album, utilising a naturalistic production that really lets their natural abilities and near-telepathic level of interplay shine right through.

Broadly speaking, for those unfamiliar with the band, the music herein can best be described as an Albini-fied Pavement, circa Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, mathed-up and by turns subtly abrasive and wonkily bluesy. Nimble and fleet-footed in the extreme, the drums tumble and glide, turning on a dime, guitars carve complex shapes, bend in and out of tune and squeak and skronk while the bass warmly anchors the whole kaboodle firmly to the earth, lest it wriggle free and fly swiftly to its natural habitat on the moon.

Sure it's odd, but also very human, thanks to the wonderfully warm and utterly honest production. The album was recorded in an off-season hotel in Jersey, and this relaxed and intimate atmosphere soaks into the music and pervades the entire recording. Even the emotionally fraught, occasionally strained, vocals have a very natural sound and feel to them - flaws and all – which further adds to the humanity.
It is fairly typical for math-rock inflected recordings which contain complex rhythms and tricky riffs to come off as having a cold, sometimes slightly sterile, air to them, which is something that Volume 4 certainly does not possess – this is a recording with heart, soul and fire.

In amongst the pitch-bending indie-prog cascades and martian blues of numbers like opener 'Larkspur' and 'Drill Your Heavy Heart' lie a pair of acoustic-lead gems that serve to showcase the intimacy of the production and the effortless interplay between the bandmembers – the Califone-inflected 'Glad' is a beautifully formed folky blues number, driven by fingerpicked guitar, and 'Crowd' has a touch of Nirvana to its borderline-naive acoustic rock subtlety. They also serve to throw numbers like 'Tryna Lean A Ladder Up Against The Wind' and the busy skronk boogie of 'Brno' into relief, proving that Shield Your Eyes are indeed no mere one-trick math-rockers, something given further credence by their choice to end the record on the electric country blues hoedown of 'Schutze Deiner Augen'.

Offsetting the abrasive nature of their occasionally complex riffs, ever-shifting meters and yelping vocals with the textural warmth and human edge of the production does wonders for Shield Your Eyes, allowing them to transcend the 'math-rock' tag that has been appended to them and to expose the fragile, beating heart that lies at the centre of all honest artistic endeavour. For that alone they deserve wider recognition.