The New York indie outfit scrape the polish off at Manchester's Deaf Institute with the sound of a band breaking new ground
Water From Your Eyes, the NYC experimental-indie duo comprising exes-turned-best-friends Rachel Brown and Nate Amos, tends to make music that sounds like an inside joke. Brown’s deadpan vocals over hyperactive, collagesquedance tracks; oblique and absurdist lyrics. There’s a constant sense of humour, but they’re not trying to make you laugh; they’re smirking to themselves. The fun is in hearing the unique, inspired sounds that this insular dynamic creates. At Manchester’s Deaf Institute, they deliver a set that expands on this.
The band take the stage to Red Hot Chili Peppers’ ‘Soul To Squeeze’ and a foggy red glow. The live lineup is unflashy. There’s three of them, Brown on vocals and Amos and live addition Al Nardo on guitars; bass, drums and samples are on backing tracks. They stand in a line at the front, and the stage behind them is unadorned apart from the projection screen displaying their name in an action-movie style font. In the middle, Brown looks like some kind of movie character, in leather jacket and sunglasses and jet-black hair masking their face.
The get-up plays like self-effacing irony, because the band’s stage presence is introverted and a little awkward. Amos and Nardo mostly stand still and keep their heads down. Brown dances when they’re not singing, small and jerky movements, usually moving to the back of the stage and turning side- or back-on to the audience.
This lack of showmanship works, because the main character of this show is the unignorable noise that the band produces. It’s theatrical in its sheer loudness and brashness. The electronic noises on the tracks, particularly the bass-heavy ones, are thunderous, while the live guitars are thrillingly harsh. Brown’s vocals are mixed low, often drowned out.
Most notable about the sound is how it centres the guitars, turning songs that are more electronic on the record – particularly those from their great newest album, Everyone’s Crushed – into tactile and visceral experiences. ‘Buy My Product’ and ‘Barley’ are highlights, the noisy feedback-y guitar squalls and driving electronics reaching invigorating heights as they crash together. Meanwhile, the light show is simple but epic – just a couple of bright yellow-white strips behind the band that light them up like rockstars, with occasional red strobes that drive home the more intense parts.
The whole thing is unslick, unrefined. There’s nothing self-serious about what you’re hearing; it’s an assault on the senses for its own sake, because it frankly sounds awesome. They’re letting you into what’s so funny if you read between the lines. Chaos is cool, chaos is silly, and silly is cool.
Photo credit: Walter Wlodarczyk