Leading to the release of I Need New Eyes, Larry Gus made it a point to play up the influence Italian prog rock and other international obscurities have had not just on his newest album but on his entire career. He’d go so far as to tell Vice that it was Lucio Battisti’s “Anima Latina” that inspired him to quit his job as a computer engineer and try to become a full-time musician. Fair enough. Gus’s music has always had a certain appeal for crate diggers—chock full of obscure samples, headnoddably retro, though rarely pastiche or overt in its homage—but now, his voice and lyrics seem to have taken on a more central role, both in the development of the album’s central themes and in Gus’s expression of his overall artistic vision. Or maybe ambition is a better word for it. He “needs new eyes and dreams of infinite lines” and “pairs of infinite lives,” supposedly in order to break free of his own inhibitions, to fill the gaps left by dreams deferred and to express himself in a way that is truly unique to himself. Mission complete?

Before getting into any more of the lyrics or the music itself, let’s consider the source of the album title, as DFA Records has taken careful attention to ensure it’s not ignored. I Need New Eyes comes from the idea that “the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes,” which is a paraphrasing of a quote, often misattributed directly to Marcel Proust, but which is actually itself a translation of an excerpt from Proust’s The Prisoner. And speaking of misattributed paraphrasing of translation, even Larry Gus’ stage/pen name is an Anglicization of larigas, the Greek word for larynx. It’s a game of telephone not unlike the process of creating sample-based music.

On opener “Black Veil of Fail,” Gus sings, “And then you said ‘Don’t forget the success of everyone else always includes failed attempts,’” in a Britpop falsetto over a latticework of exotic breakbeats bookended by other instrumental and vocal samples plucked from what sounds like Middle Eastern dirges and/or Indian folk tunes. The sample work continues on the next song, “NP Complete”—a title apparently borrowed from computational complexity theory, by the way—but here, the music sounds much more quantized and rigid, the up and down beats more accented and the chords more familiar. If the music is more accessible, the lyrics are less so, as Gus sings (in an even higher falsetto this time), “And then you told me ‘Don’t forget, you’re the subset of this infinite set/ Thus you contain the set itself and infinite members as well.’” The mathematical references don’t end here either, as on “Belong to Love,” the singer is “filled with certainty that life is just a vector pointing to my mistakes.” Perhaps somewhat tellingly, this lament of mixed signals and missed opportunities comes on one of I Need New Eyes’ most straightforward pop tunes.

We don’t know Panagiotis Melidis, the man behind the Larry Gus persona, but we do know that he is a brilliant composer. That much is on display in almost every precisely arranged measure of I Need New Eyes’ 49 minutes. Thus, even if all its lyrics fail to forge a connection, no matter what’s lost in translation, there’s always something more to appreciate and something altogether different layered beautifully underneath. From the footwork-tempo breaks of “Black Veil of Fail” and “Taking the Personal Away” to the contemplative chord progressions of “A Set of Replies” and “All Graphs Explored,” I Need New Eyes provides a number of lenses to look through, but the perspective is always Larry Gus’s: a multicultural mix of musical aspirations turned inward. Even if he does need new eyes, his ears are clearly working just fine.

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