October and the Eyes on a pink illuminated stage

LIVE: October and the Eyes / Yves Tumor – YES, Manchester

I don’t really know what I’m in for, as I enter YES’ Pink Room ahead of this set from New Zealand-born, London-based artist October and the Eyes. I’ve not heard any of her music before this moment, but given that she’s supporting Yves Tumor, I’m braced for something both musically interesting and very… out there.

A starkly-costumed ensemble enter the stage, and a wave of industrial noise greets us as lead singer October introduces her ‘Eyes’. The band members respond with total indifference. They kind of look like a gaggle of zombies; particularly the bassist who stares into the middle distance seemingly both undead and nonchalant.

There’s a dark ambience to their opening song. I’m drawn to the swirling noises in the background: it sounds as though spirits are escaping from the speakers. One of the Eyes is playing a musical saw thing (that’s not the technical term). The guitarist is boldly wearing sunglasses in this darkened room. The scene is set.

‘The Unravelling’ starts with drums that can only be described as ‘violent’. Seemingly intent on testing Yes’ notorious soundsystem, the band make the speakers reverberate as a catchy and melodic groove kicks in. I’m already seeing why Tumor likes this lot; they have a similar interplay between dark, experimental elements and straightforwardly infectious tunes.

The band move into a new song, ‘When I Was Your Girl’, which further subverts my prior expectations of experimental noise music. This sounds like 70s post punk as the drums are once again pounded ferociously. October’s vocals stand out here, and she shows us her capacity to really hold a note as distorted guitars build up the atmosphere.

The way she commands the stage on ‘Who Upset You’ says one thing to me: ‘big Karen O energy’. By this point I can declare myself officially impressed with their collective sound. They’re not afraid to go heavy, but they strike a fine balance with the melodies which are very much present on each track. There’s always a tune to hold onto which is welcome.

The next track, ‘Tit Pics’, is boldly dedicated to those who are out there “taking tit pics and sending them out to the totally undeserved”. I can’t quite hear the undoubtedly great lyrics that accompany this setup, but a strong guitar solo plays atop a crunching bed of bass and drums. October intently sings to one audience member directly while the Eyes continue to hold the same blank expressions they began with.

And then ‘You Deserve It’ is dedicated to October’s “scumbag ex”. It starts out as a straight punk song, slows slightly to something approximating the vibe of the other songs we’ve heard so far, then ramps up the punk energy again. “You’re dead to me now” is one of the song’s phrases: this split was not an amiable one.

The feedback on the guitars that dominate new single ‘Spiral’ add a lovely bit of texture to the song. And closer ‘All My Love’ has a slower groove to many of the preceding tracks. It sounds more like shoegaze than the some of the other punky offerings. Again, October addresses people directly in the front row, before the Eyes ramp up the tempo for the finale. I’ll give this lot their due: they can really play. I’m sufficiently impressed.

There’s a lot to like about October and the Eyes based on this performance, and I’m more than happy that I took a punt on their support slot. Tight and melodic with a shroud of experimentation – I’m highly intrigued about their future.

As for Yves Tumor, I saw one guy hang up his leather jacket in preparation as the support set ended. That spoke volumes, as the following hour saw Tumor and their band rip through highlights from the recent Asymptotical World EP and the Heaven From A Tortured Mind album with aplomb. This was an out and out rockstar performance in a world that supposedly doesn’t really care for that kind of thing anymore. But try telling that to a sweaty Yves Tumor, who darted through the crowd in a darkened room illuminated only by aggressively flickering strobe lighting. The mood was electric. This was the first of two shows tonight. I can only imagine what the second one was like.

Words by Tom Burrows

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