Music Reviews
Death of a Very Good Machine

EEP Death of a Very Good Machine

(self-released) Rating - 8/10

A long time ago, the 1980s to be exact, folks in Ireland and Scotland started lobbing the term “shoegaze” around, and it's been with us ever since. Taxonomically speaking, shoegaze has cross-pollinated with post-rock, dream pop, and space rock, to name a just a few of the ever-ethereal and oft-lambasted labels. Because of this genre overlap, shoehorning musicians into precise filing cabinets proves challenging. For that reason, it's sometimes easier to forgo labels in favor of articulating the feelings invoked by shoegaze artists. For example, listening to Slowdive feels like flying in an airplane and staring at the Earth 10,000 feet below. Or, if Ride's music evokes a train-ride from Sheffield to London while listening to 80's pop bands on mushrooms, then My Bloody Valentine pushes us on a cart through geode-encrusted caverns and dark, dripping mine shafts.

Using imagistic descriptors as an entry point, we might say that upstart El Paso shoegazers EEP evoke their own palette of feeling, though of a dustier and sun-baked ilk than their European counterpartsThe group, consisting of a diverse group of folks hailing from the United States-Mexico border, craft music that conjures a road trip through the desert and a million miles of blue sky. Like other shoegaze albums, EEP's latest, Death of a Very Good Machine, vacillates between post-rock jams and meditative moments of dream pop. If they were standing between similar contemporary artists, you might say EEP is like Jessica Bailiff but less goth, or Slowdive but more oxygenated.

Death of a Very Good Machine opens with Spanish language song, “Hogar” (home in Spanish). The song's propulsive wash of guitar and 32nd-note drumming is paired with Rosie Varela's voice, which is as prettily somnambulant as Julee Cruise's—if Cruise were bellowing across a canyon—and matches the airy, broad landscape of the accompanying sonics. As the album progresses, EEP's world of sound unfolds. Made up of broad, sonic inhales and exhales, the team of Varela, bassist Sebastian Estrada, multi-instrumentalist Ross Ingram, and Serge Carrasco's guitars and synths combine into looping, textured soundscapes above Lawrence Brown's complementary percussion.

Lyrics have a mantra-like quality, repeating and overlapping, braiding into the sonics in such a way that there's no hierarchy between instruments and voice. Themes of loss and damage repeat often enough to suggest the album was unearthed from the experience of a difficult or broken relationship. But there's something more universal hinted at as well, as desert creatures, rivers, and storms are summoned, marking the breathless writhing of a dying relationship as just a gateway to a discourse about our own complicated relationships with the earth.

Given the band member's roots and diversity (ages range up to three decades apart) it's not surprising that the album as a whole feels confident, thoughtful, and reflective. A lifetime of introspection and difficulties can either lead to despondence or genuine insight. EEP's journey has lead to the latter, offering a new way for shoegaze to expand; this time into a world of both figurative and literal borders. (