First, read this sentence: Syclops is a trio featuring Sven Kortehisto, Hanna Sarkari, and Jukka Kantonen, with Maurice Fulton behind the boards. Then, re-read it with scare quotes around everything except Fulton’s name, and maybe put scare quotes around those scare quotes, just to be safe. This new DFA “group” (see how that works?) doesn’t submit to interviews, perform live, manifest any Google results unrelated to Syclops, show up on film or in mirrors, have fingerprints or dental records, etc.
Fulton’s penchant for epistemological sleight-of-hand explains why a guy who’s done top-hole remixes and production for Annie, Hot Chip, and Kathy Diamond, and whom is half of Mu, can keep such a low profile. Put it this way: Syclops features the Tin Man on keyboards, the Cowardly Lion on bass, and the Scarecrow on drums, with Maurice Fulton as the Wizard of Sheffield. Pay particular attention to the man behind the curtain.
And anyway, who cares about biographical shenanigans when we finally get what’s ostensibly a proper solo album from Fulton? If he needs to be left alone to make music this good, we should let him be. I’ve Got My Eye on You (rim-shot optional) is DFA’s second direct-hit entrance this year, a contemplative counterpoint to Hercules and Love Affair‘s flamboyant debut.
The clinically exact robo-funk of early single “Where’s Jason’s K” was almost too polished for its own good, but luckily, the acidy B-side “Monkey Puss” (which isn’t featured here) turns out to be a better representation of the album proper: It’s visceral and lyrical, thumping as jaggedly as a distressed cardio patient’s EKG.
We might not get “Monkey Puss” on I’ve Got My Eye on You, but we do get “The Fly”, which features the same kind of strident, Morse code melody, artfully stuttering and ghosting out, interpolated by overdriven bass. It’s a bit like French producer Vitalic’s jaw-clenching vigor, but where the latter tends to plow down the center, Syclops utilizes every minute degree of stereo channel space.
Opening track “NR17” traces a labyrinth of pitched percussion and barely audible sub-tones through your headphones, as flying saucers circle ominously; one imagines that Fulton’s studio comes equipped with a protractor, compass, and tinfoil hat.
These extreme but seamless contrasts– of physical and synthetic sound sources, hectic and placid moods, tricky and candid patterns– typify the album. The loping “5 Out” splashes sprightly lounge piano over clipped vocal samples and sawtooth synth waves. On “The E Ticket”, shaggy jazz drums launch a bass workout flecked with crystalline arpeggios and periodic synth washes. “Mom, the Video Broke” is sort of a mirror image of “The E Ticket”– the latter starts off tight and gradually widens like a cone; the former turns its jazzy percussion into jackhammering mechanical drums as the elongated synth-bass riffs move through fiddly variations.
The title track’s reverb-brushed percussion verges on musique concrète, at stark odds with the celestial fluff drifting around it, and “Naoka’s F”, with chords radiating through a vast array of torqued pings, chirrs, and blips, feels like the view from an airport’s moving walkway– a respite from harried striding, as busy scenery rolls tranquilly by.
Overall, I’ve Got My Eye on You is the sound of preternatural studio expertise being pressed into the service of the listener’s delight. The delicate melodic structures and decorative rhythmic patterns seem to want to please us, rather than just impress us. This befits someone who goes to such lengths to isolate his name and ego from his music, and results in a lot of terrific moments, like when the hushed ambiance of “A Lovely Sunday” suddenly lights up with surprising but weirdly apt G-funk whistles. Fulton’s bio remains shrouded, but this album tells us that he’s a generous and kind of crazily brilliant producer, which is all we really need to know.
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