EUS – Luminar (Soft Recordings, 2016)


There have been a few changes under the hood since EUS’s last record, Sol Levit, in 2013, not least is the almost Black Metal reminiscent album artwork, but Luminar is supposed to be something of a new breed of record within his catalogue. Despite the disclaimer of ““new sounds without forgetting the drone side”, fans of Jose’s older works need not worry, since Luminar doesn’t seem wont to diverge too far away from familiar territory. Slightly less conceptually rigorous as its predecessor, Luminar is nonetheless a seamless and solid listening experience that feels more like a single chaptered piece rather than 12 discrete tracks.

It’s often difficult to pin yourself down with EUS’s music, to know where you are and where you’re going when you get swept up in it; perhaps it’s better to just yourself get taken along for a ride. “Abrir, Soltar” both opens and releases the floodgates in its monolithic organ drone blast, a heinous pulse of sound that signals the album’s beginning as it melts into the idiosyncratic sounds we’re to become familiar with in “Lidea” and beyond; wailing voices, dark walls of drone steeped in fuzz and slow rotations of its fabric all turn into a black hole, these heady sounds smearing out as they fall over their own event horizon to peter out into oblique drone emptiness. A number of tracks either spin out with that same sparsity or close to passages drained of power; “Cisne” turns on buzzing cyclings and distal cries with haunting minimalism, and “Luminar III” barely gets off the ground as it languishes in warbling, echoic absence before transmuting into jilted, shuffling reconstructions.

Slow builds are EUS’s speciality, and none are more graceful than the slow growth of “Aleth”; overlapping drone sequences fight for the foreground in slow motion, textures rising up like a myriad of rivulets conjoining into a single stream, blurring together discretely across the track’s span by the welding of bass pulses and ethereal voices. “Como Un Río” develops in its own mysterious currents as well, its surface rather cooler and glassier as it gleams under the black sun, piercing string whines cutting through the denser airs with an almost screaming severity and impinging a deeply unsettling atmosphere to an otherwise rather genteel piece. That same doom hovers over every track here like a shadow unseen, although it sometimes creeps to the surface; “Ficciones” feels like a throwback in its mushy and distant drum slaps and faintly primal moans that barely melt through the curtain of ensconced static and melancholy drone, slowly shambling out of the mire through jagged synth rhythms that press down before backing menacingly away like a retreating nightmare.

The strained strings of “Luminar I” are the only other place where this darkness is so overt, its early fragile croonings passing through the iris into buzzing tones and rhythmic pulses of miscellaneous electronica that feel more like an atmosphere that’s being sucked away rather than being pulled together, ultimately coagulating in the cinematic excellence of brief “Luminar II”. Although one of the shortest pieces here, its probably more grandiose than many of the longer tracks as it rushes out in swirling, dramatic synths and pointed string evocations. It’s big, it’s noir and it doesn’t feel as burdening to listen to compared to some of the drone behemoths here.

It wouldn’t be an EUS album if I didn’t come away from it generally feeling a bit overwhelmed and burnt out, but this time things are different, things really do feel more suffocating and visceral than before. It’s not just a haunting listen like we’re used to, it’s very real and very damaging, although if you asked me what this thing was about I wouldn’t know how to answer, there’s just something mysteriously thick and organic, unquantifiable about it. Certainly a crushing  experience to say the least; perhaps not for the faint of heart even for familiar fans.