Do you remember the joys of wandering through the VHS section of the video rental store, idly gazing upon rows and rows of colorful, surreal cardboard boxes, wondering what they contained? Sadly, the answer is most likely "No" for a lot of people today, born sometime after 1985 or so. It's too bad - while the endless possibilities and immediate availability of art and culture on the Internet is thrilling in its own regard, there is nothing quite like picking a stack of random media and diving in. Yes, a lot of time you will be met with dreck, to be sure, but there are a lot of gems and, at least, usually some redeeming quality if you look for it.
VHS from Queensland solo artist Eugene Nihx is like grabbing a stack of random videotapes from the corner store or local library. Nihx's complex art rock arrangements - featuring a bevy of instruments from slide guitar to harmonica to ukulele and synth - rarely repeat themselves with each one of the tracks on VHS acting like a unique short film in an abstract overarching narrative. There's the afro-Cuban samba of "Same Train Of Thought" with light, tasteful guitar flourishes and high, ethereal synth, nicely complementing Nihx's floaty vocals. "Four More Years" sounds like a soul train in Tom Waits' junkyard, while "The Gun From The First Act" starts off like a surreal game of Pong, before breaking into some disjointed math pop.
Unfortunately, the overarching thread, if there is one, is elusive, as the vocals are very hard to make out, at least through my monitor speakers. I didn't get a chance to listen through with headphones and see if the clarity is there, and, honestly, for me, it doesn't really matter. I'm a dyed-in-the-wool shoegazer, where vocals are mixed like just another instrument. I like poetic, abstract, surreal music, so VHS ticks all of my boxes.
For those who want everything spelled out and clearly sensible are likely to be discouraged with the eclectic and disjointed nature of VHS. That neglects to consider the fact that VHS was entirely self-produced and mixed by Nihx in his modest home studio. Nihx wanted to master the recordings, but just didn't have the money. I'm not about to penalize points for financial restrictions, and I spend half my time listening to rough cassettes and old vinyl anyway, so it's no worries in my camp. Rather, it just goes to show that Nihx has something to say, and is willing to spend eight months saying it.
Eugene Nihx is about to move to Brisbane (he may be there by the time of this writing), where he hopes to make a splash with a new band. If you're reading this from Brisbane, and are looking for an artful collaborator, you'd do well to snatch up Eugene Nihx. I get the feeling we could have a new Sufjan Stevens or Ed Droste on our hands.
Great stuff, and a solid solo debut!
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