cecilia::eyes: Here Dead We Lie
dEPOT214 Records

cecilia:: eyes' uses war and the wounds associated with it as thematic springboards for its second album, Here Dead We Lie. As a result, the album's mood is suitably dark, melancholy, and often funereal, as evidenced by track titles such as “Anthem for Doomed Youth” and “For the Fallen.” It's telling that the group—Christophe Thys (guitars), Xavier Waerenburgh (drums, piano, xylophone), Pascal Thys (bass), Michaël Colart (guitars) and Gauthier Vilain (guitars, samples)—includes a ‘thank you' to A Silver Mt. Zion in the album's liner notes, as the new album finds the quintet inching ever closer to sounding at times like a second cousin to the group which spawned A Silver Mt. Zion, namely Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Though MONO and Mogwai are other obvious reference points, cecilia:: eyes' music exudes a more cinematic quality that aligns it mose closely to Godspeed You! Black Emperor than to the others, though that admittedly is due at least in part to the fact that it's been conceived as a concept album. However, Here Dead We Lie isn't weighed down by its concept; while it can be attended to as such, it can just as easily be listened to sans the programmatic baggage as a largely instrumental journey involving dramatic dynamic contrasts.

Epic settings such as “Like Wolves,” “Four Lost Soldiers,” and “No Prayers, No Bells, No Homeland” alternate plaintive passages featuring pealing guitar melodies with crushing build-ups of visceral power. The pacing of the album is one of its strengths, as the group intersperses the heavier pieces with “Anthem for Doomed Youth,” which contrasts the recitation of a poem by Wilfred Owen lamenting the too-early death of soldiers with lines espousing relentless attack as the ideal strategy (“The art of war is simple enough / Find out who your enemy is / Get at him as soon as you can / Strike him as hard as you can / And as often as you can and keep moving on”), and “The Departure,” which halfway through the album provides an especially lovely foray into balladry, with melancholy piano and stately guitar melodies accompanied by lilting rhythms. “Death for Treason” likewise pairs elegant piano playing, shoegaze guitar atmospheres, and waltz tempo to strong effect in bringing the album to an alternately mournful and ecstatic close. Elsewhere, soaring upper register vocalizing in “Fifty Years Under the Tent” can't help but call to mind Sigur Rós, as does the dreamy guitar-generated washes that flow across the extended instrumental sections. Even if echoes of other bands sometimes can be detected in cecilia:: eyes' music, Here Dead We Lie nevertheless impresses as a recording of substance, and mention must be made too of a classy boxed set presentation that makes the release seem even more special.

May 2010