When Ben Crook - one third of spectral electronic trio Eaux - describes his group's songs as "never finished, just abandoned" he's describing a creative process that burrows its way down and down until each track has to be wrenched away from their originator's hands, given the sheer amount of avenues that the three-piece manage to open up during conception. However Eaux's debut LP Plastics, out now on ATP Recordings (US & Canada release July 8th), also has the feel of abandonment to it, in the sense that to listen to it is to come across some long-lost gem, an unknown discovery amidst a box of records, an electronic album where influences past and present cancel each other out in stasis to create an album that exists in a timeless era.
Formed in London in early 2012, Crook, alongside Sian Ahern and Stephen Warrington, centre their foreboding towers of shadowed sound around the hypnotic release and repetition of techno; however, although Plastics does display minimalist tendencies, the group never allow their rhythmic patterns to become static, a heavily analogue approach to everything they do putting a very human face to this machine-made music. "There's perhaps a reaction going on against a more digital-based way of doing things," Crook admits, "but by having Sian playing drum machines and physically engaging with them, rather than just pressing play and stop it means there is always room for experimentation and improvisation."
Much of Plastics has evolved from live jams, the group holing themselves up in a personal rehearsal and studio space so that ideas form and bounce off each other. Having all come from more orthodox band set-ups, they found a freedom in experimenting with comparatively unfamiliar electronic technology, their limited knowledge of their tools meaning they could approach them with very little baggage. "It's been a very natural and organic progression" says Stephen Warrington. "I've loved the learning curve of working with drum samplers and synths. Because it's always been outside of a laptop we haven't felt like it's a stylistic departure either - it's still very much about playing live."
Ahern's vocal is another key element to the group's sound, offering a softer-edged, higher range than much of the simmering murmurs and oscillations rising and falling below her. Though aerial, sweeping through the likes of the Broadcast-esque ‘Movers and Shakers' and flowering above the pulsating after-dark drone disco of ‘Peace Makes Plenty', her voice largely works as another layer amidst what's a darkened but rich tapestry, an ethos of equality driving the group, all roles on a level with each other. "This isn't really intended to be pop music and we tried not to 'over produce' the vocals" says Ahern. "They're sunk in the mix to play the part of an instrument rather than a leading, storytelling role."
Eaux are not, however, another electronic act who'll baulk at attaching a narrative to their work though. While there is a deal of interpretation to be taken by the listener - with Ahern saying of the lyrics "they tend to be born more out of fitting into the music, blurted out in our first stab at the song" - the band themselves are clear on their sci-fi influences elsewhere, no surprise given Plastics has the sense of a 70's or 80's otherworldly film score. The claustrophobia of the present seemingly matching the futuristic visions portrayed by writers of the past lies just below the surface of Eaux's work, with Crook saying "I can see the Bladerunner skyscrapers in London; I can press a button on a black glass rectangle in my pocket and video chat with people all around the world and find out everything about them, where their neighbours work, and what they had for breakfast. Our governments and societies feel straight out of a JG Ballard or Philip K Dick book."
So it is that Eaux's music feels like it's trying to reach out from that clutter and acceleration of technology, tracks like ‘Evoke' pushing hard to find space away from their synthetic frequencies. Recorded with Tom Morris, the group sought to make his studio space as similar to theirs as possible, hoping to be able to re-create a familiarity. "Tom allowed us to remain impartial and balanced, and more importantly to focus - on our performances and on the whole picture, rather than get distracted by the technical side of things" Crook comments. That's exactly what Eaux have managed to achieve - Plastics, like its name suggests, is a collection of moulded, shaped forms; the result of collective electrical process. It's an album that takes in the bigger picture, with each component unable to do without any of the others.