• KillanovaMusic

ALBUM REVIEW: LEYA, Eyeline

Grade: C+


This new LEYA project, Eyeline, is crushingly intimate.


In March 2020, LEYA released Flood Dream, their second album and an isolating opus. Songs ornamented with microtonal harp playing, haunting violin lines, and slightly off-kilter vocals painted a stripped down yet bizarrely dynamic picture, and cemented the duo as artists who blurred the lines of seemingly dichotomous ideas. The record was both depressing and uplifting, a fresh sound and an ancient one; the instrumentation pulled from enormous classical sounds and threadbare folk while the songwriting explored dream pop tendencies, and the end result sounds worlds apart from any of its inception points.


Paired with the album art, the record felt lonely and self-contained; all emotional high points felt like personal victories, and all low points felt like peerless struggles. An album of this emotional weight, in early 2020, could not have come at a better time.


This project, by comparison, feels much more like being reunited with someone outside yourself, exploring their intricacies, and a desperation to be anything but alone.


The tracklist covers a lot of ground due to this project's focus on collaboration, with the only track without any listed features being "Dankworld", a track that undergoes two full revisions on this fourty-minute offering, both of which mark it as barely recognizable from the first and both of which were produced with help from someone outside the duo themselves.


The opener "DOG" is an excellent tonesetter for the mixtape, with field recordings filling in any potential empty space in the relatively simple song and ensuring the song, though soft, is never truly quiet. In the notes I conceived on first listen, all that felt appropriate to say of the song was "crushingly intimate", a two-word description that paved the way for most of this mixtape. The second track, Glass Jaw (which features additional vocals by Julie Byrne) sounds considerably more polished and layered, with tense string playing and huge, resonant singing; the song sounds like an ancient ballad in the dead of winter. Must Have Been Good follows this track and follows it well, with soft, well-timed harp plucks rushing downward and some electronic kicks and lush backing drones courtesy of Eartheater. Her singing moves effortlessly over the sound, with the whisper-like vocals having a nearly ASMR-esque quality to them. The sounds are often very close in tone and timbre, like they're being recorded through close-mic techniques.


It's claustrophobic.


It would be disingenuous to imply this is secretly a concept record, and frankly I don't believe LEYA are the type of group to do something as obviously narrative as a concept record, but it's in character that they'd paint more pictures with their sound than they would with some overarching theme, and if you listen carefully, the sound HAS changed. Since 2020's "Flood Dream", the dynamic highs are no longer as high, and the valleys do not rest as low; instead, the sounds and the mixes are compressing, at risk of collapsing inward on themselves.


After the aforementioned "Dankworld" is track 5, "poem about executive function" which (despite the press surrounding this band commonly comparing the weeping violin and detuned harps to "music from a horror film") is the first LEYA track I'd actually call disturbing. The waves of sound in the string arrangements, the highly electronically manipulated vocals from Deli Girls which are at times almost screaming into the mix, and the touches of piano add a lot to unsettling an already incredibly unstable composition. The interplay between the violin and harp rides a knife's edge between achieving a tonal center and being in absolute tension.


"Some Better" provides a much-needed reprieve with an ambient-art-pop leaning and reliable structure and memorable melodies, though obviously not being as inherently distinct as much of what makes LEYA special. The final tracks of the record -- with the exception of the closer -- don't bounce around too much in sound and serve to reiterate some of the chamber folk and drone textures that came in droves throughout Flood Dream; the tracks featuring Sunk Heaven, Okay Kaya, and Martha Skye Murphy hold about 12 minutes of mildly interesting ideas, but the featured performers don't bring a ton to meaningfully altering most of the sounds that could be expected from this mixtape. The record ends with a drone piece turned minimal techno remix from Actress which stands as continually interesting and evolving texturally despite its over 9 minute runtime.


This project should not be your introduction to Brooklyn-based experimental pop duo LEYA. With that being said, if you are a fan of one or both of their two studio albums and are looking for a more creatively unbound elaboration from these two, give this tape a listen. It's not their best work but it's leagues more creative than the status quo and an excellent effort from a relatively underground musical effort that undeniably deserves more eyes on it.