Saturday, October 5th, 2019

Perfume Genius – Eye in the Wall

A creepy little, sneaky little…


Tobi Tella: Aims for haunting, lands at monotonous. By the four-minute mark I was wondering if it had anything else to do or say — it doesn’t.

Katherine St Asaph: Commit to audio the lyric “I’m full of feeling” and you better goddamn deliver. Fortunately, “Eye in the Wall” does: noirish, erotic, almost unbearably tense drama and danger, heady enough to lose oneself in yet immediate enough to feel like it targets individual nerves; drawn out to a luxuriating eight-plus minutes and yet too short. I hear Róisín Murphy (a lot of her, particularly in the extended instrumental), Patrick Kelleher (ambition and mood), Susanne Sundfør (if she recorded things like this still), Carla dal Forno (the bass, especially), Annie Williams (if you can track down “Beau,” do), Jun Miyake (the Pina soundtrack in particular, which makes sense, since “Eye in the Wall” was conceived as choreography), yet also a singular, hypervivid musical vision, the point (was it earlier, and I just didn’t notice, or bounced off?) where Mike Hadreas truly earned the stage name.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: I like how quietly jarring the song is, its hushed vocals and vacillating synths and jittery rhythms forming a rather cohesive whole. It’s not compelling enough to be this long, though.

Michael Hong: Perfume Genius’ “Slip Away” was a densely packed monster of a track: right after a muttered “let all them voices slip away”, the instrumental forcefully upends everything. Layered drums! Tightly wound guitars! Thundering synths! “Slip Away” comes crashing down with such force, as if tumbling down a mountain, constantly gaining momentum. “Eye in the Wall” is in some ways completely opposite, but at the same time, no way less grand. Rather than in rapid shifts, the track slowly evolves, dropping new electronic flourishes and continuously morphing drum rhythms. Perfume Genius’ position here is also different, acting as a keen observer instead of the protagonist of the track, focusing the instruments around him, his voice taking a backseat to the surroundings, often only a droning chant. The track takes its time, and it’s not until after the first minute that the drums finally arrive, setting a rhythmic through-line that feels just as meditative as Perfume Genius’ hushed vocals. The rhythm of the drums conjures the stage for the mass of twisted bodies that arrive on the dance floor, proceeding to get increasingly frantic as every minute passes. Every word might be hushed, but the command to “give it up” is entirely clear, the only option being to dive into the mass and surrender to the pulsating rhythm. But Mike Hadreas, never content with stasis, edges towards greater anxiety, and around the six-minute mark, the rhythm of the drums is replaced with an agitated rattle that’s steadied only by an occasional guitar flourish. The track contorts itself from the dance floor to a state of euphoria under strobe lights that evaporates not unlike the feeling of leaving the club. “Eye in the Wall” is a sprawling epic that beautifully captures the slow burn of the dance floor, all the while toppling any expectations you’ve set for what a Perfume Genius track can be.

Alfred Soto: By escaping his ever-loving self with the help of loops and backward instruments, the artist known as Perfume Genius shows an unexpected flexibility. Now he has to figure out what to say.

Kylo Nocom: “Eye in the Wall” reduces Mike Hadreas into a specter, sensitively muttering sexual commands like an oppressive line dance routine. His strong suit is confessional songwriting, no matter how sparse or grand his arrangements are, so for him to be a minimally used instrument among many loses a lot of what makes Perfume Genius matter. He takes an approach much like that of The King of Limbs, filling in the gaps he leaves behind with percussion and electronic loops. A YouTube comment says that this explores “the inherent homoeroticism of exotic rhythms,” but “inherent” it is not and “exotic” indicates that this person is white. The queerness of dance music specifically originates from the history of the nightclub as a safe space, as a place that is communal and liberating; Hadreas’s experimentation here seems to be a conscious exploration of this idea within the context of whatever “queer aesthetic” is, and he puts in a wonderful amount of effort towards making every minute kinetic and fascinating. But there is a disconnect between artistic stylings of queerness and my own experiences that leaves me cold. When the song enters into its second half, I am not transfixed but simply pleased. I am entertained by the myriad of ways queerness can be expressed, yet while listening to this I also remember that the connections for most of them are lost on me entirely.

Reader average: [8] (1 vote)

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3 Responses to “Perfume Genius – Eye in the Wall”

  1. YES i was hoping the subhead would be this and i am very happy

  2. In honor of my slow clap for this brilliant subhed here is “Slow Clap” by Lydia, which quotes a *different* perfect song (Miley’s perfect, that is, not Perfume Genius):

  3. Ah crap, the first time in a while I forgot to go back and blurb a song I really, really meant to. I’m with Katherine and Michael.

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