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Eye, 'Center of the Sun' Eye, 'Center of the Sun'

Center of the Sun  (2011,  43.34)  ****/TTT

Center of the Sun
Usurpers
Restorers
Rik Rite
Eye, 'Backdoor Jane' 7"  (2012)  ****/TT½

Backdoor Jane
Wooden Nickels
Eye, 'Second Sight'

Second Sight  (2013,  44.56)  ****½/TTTT

Lost Are the Years
Wooden Nickels
Cultrider
Second Sight
Waiting for the Tide
Eye, 'Vision & Ageless Light'

Vision & Ageless Light  (2016,  46.21)  ****/TTT

Book of the Dead
Kill the Slavemaster

Searching
Dweller of the Twilight Void
As Sure as the Sun

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Mellotrons used:

Ohian psychonaut trio Eye's debut, 2011's Center of the Sun (initially only available as a 'set your own price' download) is a superb slice of heavy space-rock; these guys are clearly majorly in thrall to Hawkwind and why not? The album opens with the side-long title track, which shifts through several sections, not least an early '70s boogie passage; you know, the rhythm that later metal bands dropped without a backwards glance. The 'shorter' tracks on side two (this is now available on vinyl) are of comparable quality; how come this bunch are so obscure? Guesting keys man Adam "Smitty" Smith plays genuine Mellotron, strings and flutes all over the opening title track (spot the 'can't fake that' wobblies on some of the flute notes), choirs on Usurpers and more strings and flutes on the last two tracks. While the Mellotron isn't omnipresent, it's used heavily enough to be considered as a fairly major player in the band's sonic arsenal.

Eye's M400

The following year's Backdoor Jane b/w Wooden Nickels highlights two very different sides of the band, the 'A', being a full-on, dual-guitar instrumental, while the flip is a reflective acoustic number, all harmony vocals and trippy lyrics. Mellotron on the 'B' only, with lush flute, string, brass and vibes (!) parts across the board.

Second Sight is even better than their debut, from the multiple parts of side-long opener Lost Are The Years, to the killer circular riff on Cultrider and gentle closer Waiting For The Tide. This is the sound of a band whose sound is coming to maturity as they work together, their writing coalescing into something very special indeed. Smith plays Mellotron on every track, with flutes, cellos and strings on Lost Are The Years, strings and flutes on Wooden Nickels, cellos and strings on Cultrider, super full-on strings (and choir samples) on the title track (spot the tape-mangling around three minutes in) and flutes on Waiting For The Tide.

After a three-year gap, Vision & Ageless Light, while excellent, is possibly not quite up to the standard of its predecessor, despite (?) featuring a 27-minute track. Highlights? Opening keyboard extravaganza Book Of The Dead, Kill The Slavemaster and the folk/prog of Dweller Of The Twilight Void, perhaps, although nothing here disappoints. That near-half hour epic, closer As Sure As The Sun, has some superb sections, but is possibly slightly too disjointed to be considered the band's finest hour. Lisa Bella Donna (formerly Smitty) on keys, going fucking crazy on what appears to be twin ARP 2600s in a couple of places, plus, of course, Mellotron. The album opens with a solo Mellotron section, strings and cellos battling it out too see which can be wobblier; hey, at least we know it's real... We also get minor string use on Kill The Slavemaster and Dweller, with more upfront parts, plus flutes (and sampled brass and choir) on As Sure As The Sun.

albums

Live at Relay  (2013,  39.07)  ****

Live at Relay documents the band playing a live-in-the-studio set, also filmed for DonewaitingTV, playing Usurpers and Restorers from the first album and side-long jam Dream. Usurpers is reminiscent of Deep Purple's Child In Time (not a criticism), which I hadn't noticed before, but Dream is the reason you need to own this, a superb, jammed-out piece, complete with filthy Hammond explorations and a 'Hawkwind section', for want of a better description. Smith plays samples only, with string and choirs parts here and there. Originally released on cassette, the set is now available on both vinyl and as a download.

Lisa Bella Donna, 'Looking Out, Looking on'

Looking Out, Looking on  (2016,  41.11)  ****/TTT½

Julie, Dear
Circle of Candles
While Changing Hands, Turbulent Times

Entrance, Dusk
Trust/Phantoms
Love, 1967

Mountains
Lisa Bella Donna, 'Skylines'

Skylines  (2016,  49.21)  ***½/T

Odessa
Alarcosbl
Skylines
Snowflakes
672 Timberlake Drive
Angela
Colorado
Signs & Rivers
Clouds
New Life
Volusia
Lisa Bella Donna, 'Omnipresence'

Omnipresence  (2018,  37.28)  ***½/TT½

The Hollow of Clearwell Castle
Touch
Red Veils
End of the Line
The Astral Odyssey of Stillman
Lisa Bella Donna, 'The Haunting of October Dreams'

The Haunting of October Dreams  (2018,  41.16)  ***½/TT½

Crypt of Nosferatu
Yesterday's Tomorrow
Goodbye Emmanuelle
Westflügel Omens
Arrival at Espionage
Autumn Epilogue
Lisa Bella Donna, 'Live'

Live  (2018,  43.58)  ****/T½

Nightfall
Conclusions
Shapeshifter
Fjørds
Lisa Bella Donna, 'Endless Roads'

Endless Roads  (2019,  133.24)  ***½/TT½

Afternoons
Endless Roads
When Friends Fall Out
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari Pt. I
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari Pt. II
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari Pt. III
Mountain Lake Wilderness
Appalachian Cloudpath

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

Lisa Bella Donna (formally Adam "Smitty" Smith) is psychonauts Eye's keyboard player/synthesist. Her first solo album, 2016's Looking Out, Looking on, is an eclectic, keyboard-based release, stretching far outside the realms of 'typical' electronic music to incorporate jazz (spot the full-on jazz piano on While Changing Hands, Turbulent Times and the jazzy Rhodes work on Entrance, Dusk), psych and, on lengthy closer Mountains, a form of ambient avant-psychedelia, including percussion and an upright bass solo. Lisa sticks her M400 all over the album, which opens with a solo Mellotron flute piece, Julie, Dear, key-click and all, with strings on Circle of Candles, While Changing Hands, Turbulent Times and Trust/Phantoms, plus flutes and strings on Love, 1967. The same year's Skylines is far more of a jazz album, several tracks falling into the 'laid-back instrumental jazz with ARP synth solos' style that reminds me of the more relaxed end of the '70s fusionists. Very little Mellotron, this time round, with naught but cellos and strings on the title track.

Lisa released no fewer than three albums in 2018, the first being Omnipresence, comprising four short(er), keyboard-led pieces on her patented cusp-between-prog-and-fusion style (including a superb fusion guitar solo on Touch) and a 'side-long' electronic work, The Astral Odyssey Of Stillman. Mellotron on two tracks, with a string line on brief opener The Hollow Of Clearwell Castle, then nothing until a wobbly, upfront strings part a few minutes into and then throughout The Astral Odyssey Of Stillman, plus a flute solo, very much the album's Mellotronic tour de force. The Haunting of October Dreams largely consists of soundtrack-esque material, typified by brief, splendidly creepy opener Crypt Of Nosferatu and the lengthy Goodbye Emmanuelle, beautiful closer Autumn Epilogue (strangely spelled 'Epilouge' on her Bandcamp page) being the one obviously atypical piece. Mellotron all over the place, much of it probably sampled, with strings on Crypt Of Nosferatu and cellos and strings on Goodbye Emmanuelle, Arrival At Espionage and closer Autumn Epilogue, with sampled brass (and others?) elsewhere. The self-explanatory Live compiles recordings from (in her own words) 'solo shows, clinics & workshops, and live TV/video performances', possibly at its best on twenty-minute closer Fjørds, also the recipient of the album's only Mellotron work (see sleeve pic above), with simultaneous strings and cellos (plus flutes), at least one of which, by default, has to be sampled; the radical strings pitchbend around the eight-minute mark and the sonic manipulation at the end of the piece suggests that they're fake.

2018's two-hours-plus Endless Roads is a compilation of Lisa's soundtrack work, although her virtual sleevenotes are vague on the subject of recording dates. She covers a variety of feels over its eight tracks, from opener Afternoons' percussive explorations through the three parts of The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari's dark, '20s-inspired soundscapes to closer Appalachian Cloudpath's gentle Rhodes murmurings. Mellotron on every track, both real and sampled, sometimes more obviously than other times, with cellos on Afternoons, string section and regular strings all over the title track and wobbly strings under When Friends Fall Out's acoustic guitar. The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari Pt. I opens with samples of the MkII 'moving strings', doomy cellos appearing later on, Pt. II has sampled choirs and real (?) strings, strings, choirs and (sampled?) brass on Pt. III, along with a 'moving strings' repeat, strings on Mountain Lake Wilderness and drifting choirs on Appalachian Cloudpath. Personal favourites? The whole of Das Kabinet and Appalachian Cloudpath.

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