MATTRESS - "Lonely Souls" c26 // EYES - "A Candle In The Crown Of Dawn" c40 (Field Hymns)

  Portland's Field Hymns label has been belting out all kinds of audible treasures this year, with a really varied batch of tapes from the likes of Oxykitten, White Glove, Zac Nelson and Adderall Canyonly.These two releases are definitely my own personal favorites from Field Hymns, and possibly even two of the more memorable cassettes I'll come across in 2011.Take a look at their catalog, listen to some tunes, they've got something for everyone.
  The first is a quite addictive new album from Portland lone wolf, Mattress.Lonely Souls is dimly lit, doom-filled stagger across some rather dreary terrain, a minimalist bender soaked with drastic tones, hazy synth repetitions, shuffled beats, all of which are completely punch-drunk on Rex Marshall's brooding, haunted vocal passages.His vocals have all the deep, well-read bitterness of Stephen Merritt, with a bit of Nick Cave's demonic slurring, and Alan Vega's breathy barks and yelps.All of these are fairly obvious comparisons, but the more you hear his voice, the more soulful and unique it begins to sound, despite the blatantly bitter vibe he give off.He's got a style of phrasing that's all his own, unraveling his bold words with powerful sermon-like delivery.Unlike a lot of similar solo ventures, this isn't some barely audible  bedroom tinkering.Mattress' music is completely focused and full-bodied, powered by bulky analog melodies and backed by a dense percussive swagger.He's joined by a live drummer on a few of these tracks, which fleshes them out a bit, a might give a little insight to what he sounds like on stage.
  Lonely Souls has all the sleaze and muscle of early Suicide, with heavy organ repetitions and a sweaty, sexual vibe, harboring all of the elements of classic soul and r&d recordings, and gently topped off with layers of modern synthesizers and other digital sounds.A bit of a departure from 2009's Low Blows LP, this album is a severely solid listen from front to back, and is sure to end up on at least a few upcoming "year end" lists, including my own.

   The second cassette comes from a relatively new band called Eyes, who shares ex-members of Roots of Orchis,The Lambs, The Finches, etc.Withing the first two minutes of A Candle In The Crown Of The Dawn, I was already hearing a bunch of early psych and prog mainstays, more specifically Hawkwind, Led Zeppelin, Can, and even some of the more modern indie-prog dudes, like Mars Volta and 31 Knots.After a few minutes, things began to really open up nicely, and I realized that Eyes have something a bit more original going for them.They are an insanely talented bunch of boys, and seem to be heavily influenced by classic Afro/Cuban weirdness, just as much as the aforementioned acts.Their music is as tight as tight gets, carefully glued together by a barrage of propulsive drum patterns and intricate instrumentation.
  Personally, I think that things like this can be a rather grueling listen at times, and tend be a lot more exhausting than pleasing.Thankfully, Eyes may very well share the same opinion.Their songs are full of tempo changes, instrumental freak outs, and interesting shifts in all directions, yet they spare us from the mindless jamming that a lot of these progressive bands force into a good song.The vocals are clear and soulful, and the singer drops his lines in all the right places, leaving room for his unstoppable rhythm section to flourish, which they do quite often.They utilize the few open spaces they create very tastefully, filling in the cracks with deep, underlying organ melodies and the occasional wailing saxophone.The standout track for me was Moonwhite Hour, a pleasant and twisted labyrinth of sorts, in the form of a song, with some cool key changes and wild turns along the way.
  Eyes have made a deeply original and very accessible rock album, and I can't wait to hear their most recent digi-album, Dust (self released).Get both of these great cassettes from Field Hymns.