We had discovered The Stirrings a few months before with the release of their single, Bottle of Filth. It announced X-Ray Eyes, their first album. As a reminder, The Stirrings is an experimental rock band born in 2018 from the meeting between Raúl Galán Berlanga (synthesizers), Juan Pérez Marina (guitar) and the New York musician, Ryan Louis Bradley (bass and vocals). Released on January 29th 2021, X-Ray Eyes is available in digital format and vinyl.
With the experimental aspect not being the most striking element of “Bottle of Filth”, a catchy, but fairly classic track, I was looking forward to what the band would come up with their album. It was worth it. Everything about X-Ray Eyes seems meticulously measured and thought out. The bass and guitar riffs are frighteningly effective. The voices are magnificent. They are highlighted by beautiful, simple and easy to hum melodies. Some passages as in “Start a Riot” are magnified by choruses and counter choruses with female voices that enlighten this track with a vibe similar to that of Spiritualized’s songs. The reverberation of the mix is at times delightfully stratospheric. Instead, “I want you” sounds like the impossible mix between Spacemen 3 and Lee Hazlewood, something that could resume the direction of the album, with sounds coming from late 60’s and 70’s classic rock (they even cover The Doors’ “Five To ONe”) but also the noise and experimentation from English bands of the late 80’s and 90’s.
What changes from what one could find in other rock bands is the use of the drums. In my opinion, this is the most experimental point of the Stirrings. In X-Ray Eyes, the well-known rock patterns are revisited by the sound treatment of this instrument: a sparing use of cymbals (often reduced to the only hi-hat) and more granularity, even breath. The sounds, sometimes more diffuse and most of the time underlined by synthesizers ambiances, can deceive the ear. Is it an electronic drum set, a computer or an acoustic drum set with microphones? A really interesting ambiguity. For example, the tracks “Bad Disease” and “Gods & Monsters”.
“(Cathode)” and “(Anode)” are two strange tracks, but wisely positioned within the album. These two short musical and purely instrumental paintings make the beautiful part to the synth atmospheres. They give a welcome rhythmic break, a breath.
I am not disappointed by X-Ray Eyes. Even if it doesn’t revolutionize the genre, The Stirrings’ first album is very colorful and comforting. The warmth of the voices and the mix is certainly contributing to this. Moreover, the compositions are very well thought out with nice melodies that stay in your head as well as new elements, track after track, that always renew the musical statement. If you haven’t added it to your playlist yet, don’t hesitate to do so!
Translation: Joanne Gagnon