A whole new sonic universe is transmitted on Seamus Fogarty’s latest release, A Bag Of Eyes. This is his first album for three years, and his most subversive and abstract work yet. Fogarty’s welcome move into this new territory builds on the choices made on 2017’s The Curious Hour, in the instrumentation and philosophy behind the album.
A Bag Of Eyes is more surreal endeavour with the choice of instrumentation. The traditional elements of folk are all but abandoned, replaced with raucous guitars, synths and modulated drum loops, making for a surprisingly futuristic result. Fogarty puts his energy into experimentation and creates a haunting dystopian soundscape in the process. In an interview, he described his process this time round: “Experimenting with new ways of incorporating electronics into the songwriting process, and in some cases dispensing with conventional songwriting processes altogether.”
The album opens with the eerie and enticing Shapes, a track that transcends like a torrent of black clouds. A cacophony of drone and ambient sounds manifest and cross terrains from mountains to the riverbanks, extracting an elemental aura. Fizzing synth elements on the track bleed well into Old Suit, a number that renders poetry, melody and more drone, injecting an introspective aspect to the album.
Fogarty salutes his avant-garde influences of John Cale, Brian Eno, Silver Apples and krautrock on this album; the latter influence is apparent on the track Jimmy Stewart. The motorik beat is synthesised with folky rhythms, seeking to blend the futuristic with the traditional. The inclusion of two little interludes just over a minute long are proof of his adaptability with song structure. The first, Wake Up, Felix, echoes sinister Hitchcockian cinema, with high tension keeping the listener absorbed in a void. The second is an Eno-esque body of music that shows Fogarty’s fascination for the abnormal, creating more space-age music.
A highlight is lead single Johnny K, which over six minutes creates a vivid soundscape that takes in something of an experimental voyage. It is a restless serenade from an Irishman living in London, speaking of the uneasy path towards coming to terms with identity. It represents a surreal vision of home for Fogarty, who envelops himself in further mystery summed up best in the lyric “His brother died in England building tunnels for the liars and the Cavaliers”. Another portrait of Johnny K is vividly captured in the line “You’ve got the look of someone who has given up and nothing left to lose”. As with Jimmy Stewart, this track has a decidedly krautrock presence; the motorik beat is recognisable along with the long running sequence synthesiser, creating this weird cosmic cacophony that has so much going on.
The album ends on a calm note with the ballad My Boy Willie, a track bleeding poetic imagery with a humble tale of a boy going off to fight at sea. Fogarty’s raspy vocals conjure a far away landscape that evokes all the harshness that the sea brings – a calm before the storm. Third albums can be tricky, but for Fogarty, this is a challenge he grasps with both hands, coming up with an all-encompassing record that explores many musical possibilities.