The Glitch Mob exude respect for the process in their third studio album, ‘See Without Eyes’ [Interview + Album Review]
When The Glitch Mob take a break from the visible public eye, longtime fans of Boreta, edIT, and Ooah know something masterful is in the works. After all, if there’s anything this LA-based powerhouse trio is known for, it’s a penchant for profundity and a fondness for not rushing the artistic process.
“For us, music is more about the process than the final piece of work,” they told us in a conversation leading up to the release of their third full-length studio album.
At the same time, almost four years has passed since the release of their sophomore LP, Love Death Immortality, which debuted at #13 on the Billboard 200 album chart and No. 1 on the iTunes electronic chart. As opposed to the highly experimental nature of their debut Drink the Sea LP, LDI exuded a newfound sense of direction with the introduction of storylines and a complex array of heavily layered tracks. Fans are, needless to say, squeamish to hear how those sonic storylines have evolved.
Rest easy, young apostles, for today, May 4, marks the official release of The Glitch Mob’s third album in eight years, titled See Without Eyes, via their independent imprint, Glass Air Records.
“See Without Eyes has elements of our first two albums, but explores new territory,” says Boreta. “We aimed to have it be a full body listening [experience] as well as have impact live. The album is a piece of us combined with all of the lives of the people who have brought it to life. We hope people connect with the music and feel something their own way, like the comfort looking at the stars.”
It is this sense of profound connection to the supernatural process of creation that The Glitch Mob has been infusing into their musical stamp for over a decade — since their early days of experimenting with sounds at Burning Man. Certainly, as die hard burners, and artists who owe their career start to life on the playa, the three have encoded the spiritual and communal energy of Black Rock City into the very fibers of their being.
“Playing some of our first shows at Burning Man definitely honed our creative DNA. It’s all about taking people on a journey and that has stuck with us. We didn’t know anything about the music industry at the time; we were experimenting with sound. We’ve kept the sense of experimentation.”
A love for experimentation, of pure joy and playfulness, and a simultaneous appreciation for evolution, to an almost philosophical degree, continue to be important themes for the guys in their musical output. Perhaps that is why their music is so hard to pin down stylistically; for it is anything but generic. Their portfolio is mystical, perplexing, and always deeply satisfying. Listeners often walk away with as many questions about their lives, the lives of others, and the universal force fueling it all, as they do filled with immense gratitude for the experience.
“This album is about the mystery of being human. Music can express truths far above above and beyond where words falter and cease.”
This is the kind of raw, undefined energy The Glitch Mob strives to reignite in their music and live shows, one that is elusive beyond the timelessness of sound — and it’s safe to say, they want it that way.
With inspirations ranging from Aphex Twin to Jay-Z to British Eastern philosopher Alan Watts, and spiritual teacher Ram Dass in between, it’s no wonder the style and attitude of a Glitch Mob track is so elusory and mysteriously divine.
See Without Eyes is an album that’s rather difficult to critique, perhaps because it is such a layered, fully-embodied listening experience. There are, however, two thematic qualities as to why the LP works as seamlessly as it does. Almost like a light and dark energy fueling the other, experimentation and evolution are two prominent forces driving See Without Eyes.
“That’s the powerful thing about music: it’s different for everyone and doesn’t mean one thing in particular. You might hear dark and someone else hears light.”
The album’s leading track, “Enter Formless,” offers the first gateway into The Glitch Mob’s world of amorphous, experimental sounds. Complete with vocals from Sacramento-based female electronic duo Rituals of Mine, the lyrics —”Tell me how you feel it” — quite literally instruct the listener to forget about form, genre, and the like, and simply open their bodies and minds to the sonic experience. Yet, at the same time, the song is anything but formless — boasting rich melodies, a dedication to structure, and clear direction guided by classical horns and their signature electro-stabbing synths.
From this starting point, the album gradually progresses to tell a larger story, with each track building on the last so as to ease listeners deeper into their world. It is a world where light and dark energies are constantly competing with each other and, at the same time, complementary to one another. “Disintegrate Slowly” is one piece that exemplifies this notion, taking listeners on a jolting ride into experimental tones and broken beats. Cinematic horns and percussive elements set a foreboding mood as the trio takes unpredictable twists and turns before dropping abruptly into the more melodic track, “Keep On Breathing.”
One thing is certain at the album’s midpoint: See Without Eyes is not just a collection of individual tracks, but a comprehensive masterpiece that demands to be experienced as a greater circular whole. Bouncing back and forth between experimental, non-lyrical tracks — “Come Closer,” “Interbeing,” and “The Way Is Out” — and more melodic, gut-wrenching ballads — such as in the previously released collaborations, “How Could This Be Wrong (ft. Tula), “Take Me With You (ft. Arama),” and “I Could Be Anything” (ft. Elohim).
“This album is a result of a deep dive. It’s a love note to the art form of music and the way it connects us. It’s a result of us experimenting, having fun, and collaborating with some incredible artists.”
See Without Eyes is brimming with unique collaborations, which speaks to The Glitch Mob’s yearning to work with artists who organically fuel their sound. Not only does the album enlist some of the music industry’s most exceptional underground artists — from rising electronic talent Elohim, Arama, Ambre, and two tracks with Isreali singer/songwriter Tula — the group has sought out a few meteoric young bass talents in REZZ and Illenium as well.
“These connections all happened organically,” says The Glitch Mob. “We’re all mutual fans of each other’s music, which is how our best collaborations happen. Mindshare.”
As the album begins to descend, after cascading between the eery and yet hopeful tones of “Go Light,” The Glitch Mob harken back to the emotional with a harmonic and hypnotizing ballad in the Ambre-assisted track, “How Do I Get To Invisible.” After entrancing hums on the lead in, Ambre’s vocals take center stage on the track with stand out lyrics —”All of my flaws make me out to perfection” — overlaid by an experimental landscape choked full of arpeggiated chords and beguiling instrumentation.
The album also boasts an innovative, avante-garde visual component created by the trio’s visual arts designer, David Wexler, also known as Strangeloop, who has also worked on visuals for Pharrell, Flying Lotus, Kendrick Lamar, The Weeknd, and more. The group says they gave Strangeloop See Without Eyes to build his reactions in visual form whilst listening to the album. His visuals will be featured as music videos for all 11 tracks, which link together to paint a larger picture for the album, as well as a unique VR machine for people to experience during The Glitch Mob’s tour through setups in the lobbies at their shows.
As three friends who got their start in the burgeoning Los Angeles bass-driven beat scene, The Glitch Mob has gone from young starry-eyed neophytes, who were just learning their way around the decks at Burning Man, to international rockstars equipped with a DIY sensibility and a deep respect for artistic process.
“The process between us is quite fluid at this point as its been so long. It’s a musical conversation that’s based on trust, surrender, and discipline. In fact, it’s more about the process than the final result. We challenge ourselves, dive deep, and express.”
Still heavily steeped in their signature synthesizers and saturated bass lines, See Without Eyes represents an appreciation for where the three musicians have been and where they are going. Where that is, even Boreta, eDIT, and Oaah may not be able to say. But with landmark festivals like Lightning In A Bottle, Governors Ball, Bonnaroo, Electric Forest, and Shambhala on their list of headlining summer appearances, not to mention a massive global tour where they will unveil The Blade 2.0, The Glitch Mob is certainly going places.
The Glitch Mob perform on their Blade set-up at Austin City Limits, 2014. Photo courtesy of Ralph Arvesen.
Whether or not fans can expect another Burning Man set in the near future, the guys leave that question playfully open-ended. They merely extend gratitude for the people who created a pop-up community which gave them the space to hone their experimental sound: “Thank you, Larry, for making the world a weirder place.”