Song Sifting: Eyen

  • Post category:Song Sifting
Song: Eyen
Artist: Plaid
Album: Double Figure
Year: 2001

Eyen unfolds like a journey, a car ride lets say. The chord progression is our car. An 8 bar loop that repeats throughout. It’s not changing. It’s not stopping. Nice and reliable. You can relax your focus and enjoy the views passing by out the window. And what’s going on out there? Every 8 bars or so, we encounter some new instrumentation.

An acoustic guitar provides the chords. After 8 bars, a distant synth pad percolates up from beneath the surface. Momentum builds when the bass creeps in. The first minute of this song is a clinic in building anticipation. An electric guitar emerges, outlining the chord progression. The bass, still repeating a single note, switches from a double pulse to a full eighth note beating. Then, it changes again, adopting a funkier rhythm. Then viola, drums appear; just the release we’ve been waiting for.

So the first minute is spent collecting all of the foundational elements. Almost like packing the car. Once we have the drums, it’s full speed ahead. Drive ahead 8 bars and we find a whistling flute melody. Eight more bars and it’s passed, relegated to the background as a new electric guitar layer comes into focus. Now that you get the idea, you’ll see the rest of the song develops in this fashion.

With one aspect of the song so constant, you expect to find an extra focus on variation elsewhere. We see this with the revolving top layers. But it occurs on a more subtle level as well. Take the hi hats for example. They are quite low in the mix, and sometimes difficult to hear. But zoom in on them and you’ll notice they’re alive. Always moving from the left ear, to the right, and back. Such details reveal the level of care and craft taken in the composition.

Now lets consider the bass. Often in electronic music, you get simple, repetitive bass parts. Utilitarian. The synth line that comes in at 2:09 is like this. Just a straight eighth note rhythm. Now rewind to 1:00. Listen to all the character in that bass. It really jams. There’s a nice fill going into 1:39 and for the next 30 seconds, the bass goes wild! Completely unexpected in a song like this. But a welcomed surprise. After 2:09, there’s so much layering above it that it settles back into a straight rhythm so as not to clash. Relegated to the background, but not before some fun.

Eyen is satisfying in its simplicity. The chord progression is peaceful, even hopeful, with the way it turns upward at the end of each cycle. There’s anticipation with each upturn, to see what will appear next. We get complacent. Yes, what we hear now will soon pass. But something new is coming to replace it, and it’s always just as nice. Until it’s not. At 3:12 a change occurs. Unexpected and irreversible. The journey has lead us far from where we began.

Try this at home:

1. How many different top layers can you craft that fit your foundation? Better question. How do you tie them together so they flow seamlessly from one to the next. Like views out a car window, not junk out of a grab bag. Make more than you need and only keep the best.
2. Attention to detail: Where can you add subtle variations that add life to the mix? Remember, these aren’t necessarily focal points and shouldn’t be stealing attention from whatever is.
3. Anticipation requires two key components. Ask “What am I building toward?” and “How long until it arrives?” Command the tension and release dynamic. Otherwise, you’re just meandering.

P.S. If you’re new to Song Sifting, here’s what it’s all about