The last year has been referred to by some in politics and the media as “the great reset”, and whether or not you agree with that sentiment many people have paused to reflect on their lives and their place in the world. I can’t say how much that weighed on Subsonic Eye – it has been nearly three years since their previous album and some change should be expected – but the impression you get from the beginning of Nature Of Things is a return to basics. The Singaporean quintet has shed much the guitar fuzz and effects that shaped their first two albums for a more organic tone that incorporates more acoustic instruments, field recordings and clean sounding guitars bringing a newfound clarity to the band. That’s not to say Nature Of Things doesn’t rock hard at times. Taking their cues from art rock legends like Sonic Youth and post-punk cult favorites Life Without Buildings, Subsonic Eye bring an exuberant and experimental spirit that counter balances front woman Nur Wahidah’s soulful vulnerability.
The warped folk of introduction track “Consumer Blues” acts as a brief segue into “Cabin Fever”, the first full band song on the record. It’s folk rock tendencies seem to be on the verge of artfully falling apart at times before Nur summons the band into a huge pop chorus. Subsonic Eye hit the sweet spot of being experimental enough to keep the music interesting and still lucid enough for Wahidah’s vocals to claim the spotlight. Single “Fruitcake” is a post-punk sprint powered by Lucas Tee’s furious drumming and impressive guitar work which builds to a towering post-rock like crescendo but in a fraction of the time. “Animinimism” resumes a calmer and more thoughtful approach, musically and lyrically. “I was just searching for the reason to live, the reason to move. I was searching for the meaning to this, the meaning to feel good” sings Nur Wahidah before seemingly finding her answers through communing with nature. On “Further” the band explores a dynamic approach similar to “Fruitcake” and doesn’t quite match the swagger, but takes the listener for a thrilling ride just the same. Of all the songs on Subsonic Eye’s third album “Spiral” feels the most like their earlier work without straying too far from the album’s themes. Guitars have a little more grit, the chord choices are intentionally quirky and Nur’s lyrics are less philosophical and more personal. “Kaka the Cat” is by far the most humorous song in the band’s catalogue. Sung in a lo-fi style by the whole band, it’s a sad lament to a lost cat. The protagonist begs the dead cat’s forgiveness for not trusting the veterinarian and spending all the band’s money on bills. It’s always refreshing to see they bands not take themselves too seriously. Final track “Unearth” was the first single released ahead of album and as you would expect it’s one of the strongest tracks here. Melodic guitar hooks abound as Wahidah contemplates the apathy of the world around her. Some versions of the album also feature the bonus track “Matahari” – which translates to sun in Indonesian. A drum machine and iridescent guitar lines follow Nur as she gently croons over it’s South Pacific vibe
Nature Of Things dispenses with the fuss and distills Subsonic Eye to their core strengths. It’s also in many ways their most diverse in terms of production with a loose feel, some tracks performed live, incorporated field recordings, the occasional lo-fi song, and still other tracks covered in a glossy vibrant sheen. Longtime fans will find a lot to love about Nature Of Things and by evolving their sound they might just reach out to new audiences as well thanks to their faithful callbacks to indie rock’s past and continuing to be among the most exhilarating bands on the contemporary scene.
Highlights: “Fruitcake”, “Cabin Fever”, “Unearth”
For Fans Of: Sobs, Snail Mail , Say Sue Me