New York, 1981. Times Square was still littered with drug deals, porno theaters, and a general sense post-apocalyptic urban decay. By this point even Travis Bickle had said the hell with it, parked the cab, and moved to the suburbs. The “Big Apple” was indeed rotting to the core. It’d be several years before Giuliani and Disney would turn Times Square into a kid-friendly, jumbotron-sporting vacation stop. In the early 80s New York still had that reputation as a little Hell on earth. Escape From New York came out in 1981. I think they shot on location, with little grime added.
Besides the reputation, there was a sort of morbid curiosity those at a distance possessed. A longing for the darkness and the sleaze. Some preferred the picturesque New York of Woody Allen, while others fetishized the New York of Abel Ferrara. Listening to the synth-y sleaze of Mr. Eff’s Eyes Down, I’m reminded of graffiti-covered subways, grimy head shops, and perpetually wet alleys. Buzzing neon lights that light the way to degradation at an hourly rate. Eyes Down pulls you in with darkly lit melodies and sleazy electro funk that will make you think of films like Ms. 45, The New York Ripper, and Maniac. These tracks seethe and slither like steam rising from a manhole, and are deceptively catchy. Simply put, this is one of the best heavy sleaze synth records you’ll hear this year.
Mr. Eff. Who is he? A bit of a mystery, but like the music he creates that only goes to make him more interesting. He put out The Parallel back in 2017 with Giallo Disco Records, which was a collection of diabolically gorgeous and strange horror synth songs. If you grew up on a healthy diet of Italian horror, 80s sleaze, and minimalist horror scores then Mr. Eff spoke your language. Now, Mr. Eff is releasing his newest electro/funk/horror opus with Burning Witches Records. Eyes Down has the sound of a horror film score, but also works as the sound of fever dreams and back alley regret.
So what are you getting into here? Wonky electro funk, sweaty synth riffs, and moments of sweet beauty amongst the chaos. Rob’s Maniac score and the Maiovvi/Umberto collab Law Unit haunts the vibes on Eyes Down, but Mr. Eff is on his own freaky trip. And what about that album title? According to BWR:
1981 was the most violent year in history of New York City as recorded by crimes per capita.
Many crimes occurred at subway stations and on the trains. Riders were terrified and told to keep their EYES DOWN for fear of provoking violence.
Mr. Eff takes us on a seedy journey of a nearly non-existent New York, as if scoring some long lost Abel Ferrara flick. “Subway(Opening Credits)” brings us into the world he’s created with a subtle, mysterious feel. A theme opening this dark fairy tale. “Express Train” is a walk thru crumbling neighborhoods and penetrating eyes peeking around every corner. “Stalker” is all nauseating tension and the possibility of violence at every turn. Electronic percussion and a synth line very reminiscent of the work of Rob on the Maniac soundtrack adds a touch of the darkly familiar. Underneath all the tension there’s a melodic lean that makes you want to keep listening. “South Bronx Subway Trap” permeates in early 80s club vibes. Sweaty dance floors, late night indiscretions, and an underlying sense of dread. A perfect mix of late night grooves and creepy undertones.
Elsewhere “Spring In Central Park” feels like a break in the clouds in an otherwise overcast New York day. That break quickly ends with “S&M Club”, a penetrating underground techno banger that percolates with deep-seeded desires and forbidden thoughts. A touch of Cruising with a touch of early New York street beat. “The Self We Keep Hidden” is the beast awakening. Pent up rage and prickly synth come together to unleash dark desires. “In My End Is My Beginning” ends our urban odyssey. Mr. Eff closes out our time machine trip through Ferrara’s New York with a track that exudes both a breathless stare into the past and a melancholy gaze towards the shadow of “new” New York. A cleaned up Times Square, and a gentrified Brooklyn. A world that Eyes Down never could’ve come from.
Mr. Eff takes the path of contemporaries like Pentagram Home Video, Slasher Film Festival Strategy, and Rob and takes the sleazy sounds of exploitation films of the late 70s and early 80s and turns it into something all his own. A mixture of nightmare visions and melancholy melody, all rolled into a claustrophobic rhythm and techno pulse. Eyes Down is pure urban dread.
8.7 out of 10
Eyes Down will be released exclusively at Mondocon 2019. The limited edition “subway grime” release is an 180g heavyweight vinyl mastered by BuringTapes and cut at the historic Abbey Road studios. Additionally, the heavyweight 425gsm sleeve features an insert print and download card – all exclusive to MondoCon 2019, which takes place September 14-15 in Austin.