The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Album Of The Week

Nature Unborn: A Southern Code By Eros
Bernie Brooks , August 11th, 2022 07:38

Regis, Liam Andrews of MY DISCO, and Boris Wilsdorf team up for a merciless trip to the abattoir as EROS, says Bernie Brooks

EROS photo by Sen

I'd love to tell you all about this EROS record, but right now, I've gotta deal with these beetles. These invasive, bejewelled pricks are making a meal of my garden, muscling out the fauna that should be nibbling my greens. So, I'm steeling myself for an absolute massacre. Now, this isn't my normal mode of existence – I'm a live and let live sorta guy – but if I'm being honest with myself, I'm happy for the distraction.

Because lately, I have become boring. Or maybe bored. Or bored of myself. You see, thanks to pre-existing medical conditions, my partner and I, for the most part, remain in lockdown. While much of the world has begun to live as if the pandemic is over and done with, we're still stuck in a cycle of work and home. I haven't seen live music in a club since 2019 and I'm running out of ways to keep my brain from rotting.

Thankfully, in addition to those blessed, damned beetles, I've got an inbox overflowing with emails, each a jewel of potential. Decent ones provide maybe a half-an-hour or so of novelty. Great ones, like the one containing the subject of this review, EROS' A Southern Code, are god-sent. Not only do they contain new music, they contain new music of genuine interest. A priceless commodity in my new era of boredom.

You'd be forgiven for having never heard of EROS, but loyal readers of this site will surely recognise its constituent parts: the one and only Karl O'Connor (AKA Regis), Liam Andrews of tQ favourites MY DISCO, and legendary Einstürzende Neubauten-enabler Boris Wilsdorf. By now, those same readers probably know how I feel about these characters, which is to say: I like them a lot. These artists are lifers with real longevity – even MY DISCO, the 'newest' of the crew, have been around nearly two decades. Artists like this, their stories aren't short – their careers have volumes.

I recently spoke with Joe Thompson and Chris Summerlin of Hey Colossus (lifers themselves) for this site, and something Thompson said outside of the scope of the interview was this: "When it comes to bands like Yo La Tengo and Sonic Youth and The Fall and all the bands that stick it out, the stories are often as interesting as the music. And I think that's really important. If you're a vinyl-digging nerd, the story is fascinating. You go from Live At The Witch Trials to Your Future Our Clutter. Like, classic records with 30 years in between!"

Needless to say, that resonated. Where a lot of that fascination lies (at least for me) is in between the volumes. It's no surprise that I've used similar terms to describe O'Connor's career before: books, volumes, chapter headings. Maybe that's lazy or a cop-out – or boring – but it's apt. I see O'Connor as a musician prone to both evolution and subtle reinvention. Excised from the protracted histories of the artists in the group, however, the story behind EROS is a simple one. They are, as O'Connor describes it in the presser, another accidental band: "After working closely with Boris during the sessions for my last album, we wanted to keep the momentum up and just keep recording ideas that could possibly form the basis of a sister LP. It became clear during the recording that it was fast becoming something other than a Regis record and the three of us had accidentally become a group."

The realisation that this was something other than a Regis record, the recognition that the trio had created something distinct – that's important. As far as EROS goes, there's no question that it is a distinct entity in each of its members' respective catalogues. And that's especially apparent when it comes to O'Connor and Andrews.

O'Connor's last two outings as Regis, Hidden In This Is The Light That You Miss and The Floor Will Rise, had a certain lightness within them, a delicacy almost. A Southern Code snuffs that out. It has a slight death rock tint, a bit of Southern gothic tinge. It's real abattoir stuff. While not exactly hard or brutal, it feels merciless – in a way that recent Regis outings haven't.

As for Andrews, as of late his main gig has most often dealt in deconstruction, in an oppressive sparseness. Spare rooms full of thick air choked with dust motes and spores. EROS at its most minimal is wildly maximal compared to MY DISCO's recent output. Which isn't to say EROS as a group are particularly maximal. Their industrial arrangements are often full but never what I'd call cluttered. I'd go so far as to describe them as judicious, as just-right. The point of this paragraph is that almost anything as (almost) song-oriented and concerned with creating the sort of rhythmic propulsion – with occasional hooks – that is EROS' stock-in-trade is going to be maximal compared to MY DISCO's last two records. (Which, to be clear, are both killer.)

For his part, Wilsdorf's presence is both utterly essential and like something of a Downwards constant. His is the distinct sonic vocabulary of recent MY DISCO, of recent Regis. He excels at placing sounds in his fabulously wide open yet clearly delineated Wilsdorf-ian space. Yes, I just used the man's name to describe the sounds he engineers, but let's be real: anyone even remotely familiar with his work will recognise it immediately – it's that distinctive. Practically sculptural. If the sound of A Southern Code is nearly corporeal, its down to Wilsdorf.

It's hard to say what exactly EROS is for these guys, arriving literally decades since they began their respective careers. Is it a new volume, a new chapter, a footnote, an appendix? A Southern Code is a slim record – five tracks over something like 30 minutes. But they're meaty minutes. Things like the massive, rubberised bassline of 'Uncommon Fears', or the chisel-on-metal percussion and electronic squall of the title track, or the mountainous feedback and hypnotic vocals of 'In This Place' - they stick to your bones. Still, when all is said and done, this album doesn't feel like an ending or conclusion, that's for sure. There's obviously still work to be done. Perhaps it's a prologue?

I can say for certain what it isn't – boring.

A couple weeks ago, I was so bored that I actually researched boredom. Turns out, the word itself is a relatively new one, historically speaking. The rough concept? That's been around forever. Right now, I'm at my sink preparing a soapy concoction in which to drown the Japanese beetles currently copulating on my asters. Normally, when I work in the garden, my listening leans ambient, relaxing, so as not to fully block out the natural din around me. Today, that doesn't seem appropriate. Today, I'm listening to A Southern Code.