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The Eternals - Heavy International

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Artist: The Eternals

Album: Heavy International

Label: Aesthetics

Review date: Mar. 22, 2007

Until now my encounters with the Eternals, either on record or in concert, have felt far too true to their name. I have always appreciated their reference points; politically minded and

Jamaican-rooted, their music extended the work of late-'70s and early-'80s English experimentalists like PiL, the Slits, and the New Age Steppers. If you want to hear record-collection rock, these guys have definitely been digging in the right crates. But Damon Locks’ less-than-fluid singing seemed to trip over the beats, and I always walked away wishing I could’ve just heard a dub plate.

With Heavy International, they’ve gone and given me what I wanted, although not exactly the way I wanted it. They still sing songs, and the current batch deals in an enervated protest vibe that’ll be sadly familiar to anyone who could read both a newspaper and map when the first Bush was in office. It wasn’t funny the first time, and this time it’s pretty miserable. But I digress. The Eternals have plugged into dub’s spirit; there’s nary an instrument on this record that hasn’t been lovingly fucked with, including Locks’ voice, but they refrain

from rote reverb treatments that merely echo their elders. Instead faux radio-announcer samples, squelchy synths, and micro-quotes from their big record collections peep in and out between the crisp, high-stepping bass and drums.

The trio tracked the basic elements in bass/keyboard player Wayne Montana’s basement, then dumped them into the house's Pro-Tools station — an invitation for overworking if ever there was one. But the grooves breath and flex, feel live and alive. Drummer Tim Mulvenna used to manage that trick nightly in the Vandermark 5, but it’s one thing to do that in a room and another to transfer it to record. Most important, though, Locks has figured out how to keep his voice from colliding with the music; his multi-tracked chants consistently keep their footing atop the rubbery pulse. The record still feels longer than it needs to be, but on the third time out the Eternals have finally figured out how to make one that doesn’t feel eternal.

By Bill Meyer

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