Ambience, texture, live electronics, loops and layers have become almost routine elements of the adventurous musician’s toolkit. Eyebrow, the duo of Pete Judge and Paul Wigens, with Paul on drums, Pete on trumpet and both deploying electronics, explore the territory first opened up by minimalists and tech pioneers. They continually surprise, charm and challenge, creating very personal and distinctive music that is always, vividly alive.
Strata, the fifth album, was released in the second half of 2017 and sustains their momentum as a creative force. They were in Bath at St. James Wine Vaults during Independent Venue Week with a relatively rare live performance, playing the material from the new album and a couple of older pieces. It didn’t take long for them to cast their spell. They invariably start with a sample or a loop, or mesmerising tattoo from the drums, but there’s always an artful twist. Pete Judge seems to be incapable of playing without injecting an attention grabbing twist in a repeated motif, or adding a layered harmony that tingles the spine. Wigens may sound like he’s locked in a repeating drum pattern, but he never is, quite, and oh how he grooves. It’s impossible not to sway, or maybe even dance.
Strata has a different timbre to the much acclaimed Garden City. There’s a rocky edge here, a more atmospheric, cosmic sheen to some of the textures there. Gravity Waves was driven by an insistent pulse from Wigens on violin with the trumpet building a rich hymn like harmony, overlain by plaintive trumpet cries and one of those ear tweaking melodic hooks. Anthracite and Soapstone were, well, more rocky; a snappier edge to the drums, more urgent phrases from trumpet. There were free-er more exploratory pieces, Lunar Friction swirled and squalled, Sediment thickened and thickened in intensity, long notes just hanging on top of each other as the drums spattered.
There’s no need for Eyebrow puns or jokes, Pete Judge delivers wry hints at them a-plenty, but these two do keep raising their game, and live is even more compelling than the recordings.
They’re at St. George’s Bristol in May in a double bill with Mammal Hands and added visuals are promised. Don’t miss a genuine Bristol treasure.