Negative Gain Productions
Toronto’s Eye Steal cram a lot of drama and grit into their debut for Negative Gain Productions, such that the individual songs often strain to contain it all. The one-person project of Remi Monroe combines raw electronics with highly emotional vocals, the result of which is a hazy, loping animal of a record, never settling into a comfortable or familiar groove. That works for and against Burning Out: at its best it feels bracing and unpredictable, the flipside of which is that it also has moments that feel aimless or off-kilter.
Eye Steal’s vocals are likely going to be the first thing most listeners latch onto, and despite the heavy emphasis on electronic fuzz and texture, they’re given plenty of room. Monroe has an arch croon often reminiscent of IAMX’s Chris Corner, and he deploys it to good effect conveying disaffect, disgust, high melodrama, or whatever else is required by the song. The contrast between his theatrical delivery and the saturated, buzzy synths and drums that make up the LP’s musical backbone is deliberate and gives the record its charm; Monroe gets to play the down at the heel songbird beset on all sides, shining through his roughshod surroundings. When he takes flight on the excellent “TV Armour” it feels triumphant, raising himself aloft on pure affect.
The record is strongest when it focuses on the tension between Monroe’s voice and the instrumentals, and several good songs like “Just Like You” are a direct product of those elements interacting and bolstering one another. Things are less interesting when the LP places more emphasis on the electronics, while a track like “Push” has a dangerous vibe at its heart it doesn’t build or release in a way that emphasizes it. And although opener “Who is it For” shows Eye Steal can do aggressive reasonably well, deeper cuts like “Better Than You’re Worth” lack the punch their rough and tumble sound would imply. You get the impression that Eye Steal are fine-tuning their approach and some experiments are simply more successful than others.
With that understanding, Burning Out has enough moments of note that you’d be foolish to dismiss them. Songs like “Ordinary Girl” where Monroe recasts himself as a doleful electropop libertines are simply too good to ignore, and the potential they display for the band is manifold. Eye Steal have ideas, they have some songwriting, production and performance chops, and they have a recognizable aesthetic. Once they zero in on how to bring all those elements across on every song they’ll be set.