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Eyes and Arms of Smoke - A Religion of Broken Bones

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Artist: Eyes and Arms of Smoke

Album: A Religion of Broken Bones

Label: Cenotaph

Review date: Mar. 9, 2006

Contrary to hearsay, all four members of Eyes and Arms of Smoke hail from a small town about 20 minutes away from Lexington, Kentucky, called Nicholasville in Jessamine County. It always struck me as a gutter town, a white trash haven (though, I was always fond of the bowling alley and cemetery), but once one reaches the countryside of the JC, the authentic KY state comes to life. Farms are at every bend in the narrow road, flanked by rolling green hills, tall grass and wildflowers. Yet, an irrepressible haunt endlessly trails. Jessamine County has a persistently weird vibe, and the geography of the group seems rather relevant upon listening to A Religion of Broken Bones.

In a rundown tobacco warehouse, something evil lurks; it wobbles down lonely corridors and empty alleyways at all hours of the day, ever restless. Envision tracing the footsteps of this spirit, over crusted iron vents and creaking floorboards, down narrow footing and dangling stairways in Dante fashion. A sound begins to emerge from the depths, a haunting debacle of old-time Appalachian folk, an H.P. Lovecraft story, and a death-smeared mentally insane local. This is where Eyes and Arms of Smoke perform, at the ninth ring of Hell. The lord of the flies demands their eerie tunes until he falls into slumber. Such is A Religion of Broken Bones.

The quartet -- Robert Beatty, Ellen Mollé, Sara O’Keefe, and Trevor Tremaine -- belong in the Old English days: the days of scribes, blacksmiths, tailors and mead drinkers telling tales that oft turned long. Mollé plays viola and generally adds an element of anxiety; O’Keefe plays the clarinet, flirting with the other instruments and vocals. They both bring an element of exceptional tonality, a softening yin to EAS’ other brutal half. Gentlemen Tremaine and Beatty have been involved in Pengo, Burning Star Core, Three Legged Race, Warmer Milks and most notably Hair Police. Tremaine plays drums in the Police, but for Eyes and Arms of Smoke he switched over to assaulting an acoustic guitar. The beginning of “Pioneers of Sleep,” where Tremaine makes his chilling introduction, will forever be at the forefront of my nightmares. Beatty fools around on synthesizer and percussion, sculpting intermittently slow, mental processes, which proceed into a sliding madness at the finale in “Nemesis.” Though well tuned and well played, these typically acoustic instruments bear an enormous weight, and what emerges are songs for fallen angels, songs doused in the fire of a final satanic ritual. The eponymous track "Eyes and Arms of Smoke" is a maniacal chant, an apocalyptic foresight, a thuggish, brutal killing off of all: "And now the highway revealed, the host appears to defrock the globe / Now all is shown." Lord knows why it sounds so good.

By Kate Hensley

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