You may not have heard of MESTIS, but you may have heard the guitar stylings of Javier Reyes, the other guitarist alongside Tosin Abasi in the instrumental prog metal band Animals as Leaders. MESTIS is the side project of Reyes, and Eikasia is the second album under that moniker released through Sumerian Records, and it also features Eric Moore on drums. If you are looking for a companion to the heavier Animals as Leaders releases, you’ve come to the wrong place. Eikasia is a melding of instrumental jazz, relaxed atmospheric tones, classical guitar and a touch of proggy djent, in the same vein as Reyes’ previous release, Polysemy from 2015. Reyes delivers clean, groovy guitar with a couple muted surprises. My beef with this album is not in the talent of the artist, but is the same as it is with many instrumental prog acts. Eikasia is pleasant, but lacks the dynamics necessary to give the music any weight or to make it truly engaging.
The opening track, “El Mestizo,” is easily my favorite of the album, by process of elimination. I was intrigued by its playfulness, and by the lower tones that made this style of guitar famous. Unfortunately, the rest of the album is a complete letdown. Track two, “Sedosa,” is painfully accessible. It could easily accompany an ad for a cruise line, or fill the air of the restroom in a high-end bar—you know, the kind of place where there’s a bathroom attendant in a tuxedo, awkwardly hovering over you on that comically high stool in the corner whilst you pee. Everything is marble, and there’s superfluous waterfalls everywhere. The lights are gradually shifting color, and there are fireplaces on every wall even though it’s eighty degrees. The martinis all react to blacklights and have various trinkets in them that may or may not be from the future. You know, that kind of place. Eikasia is bathroom music for that place.
The opening of track three, “Ever Wonder,” is perhaps even more pedestrian. It’s the kind of music that wouldn’t feel out of place in the waiting room of a dentist office, or in the produce aisle of a grocer’s market. My point is, it’s the kind of easy-going, pleasant music that is made to put the listener at ease, but largely not be noticed. It doesn’t grab you. Now, there is a shift around two minutes in where Reyes bucks convention for a moment—and I like it—but it’s not enough to make me remember the track, let alone gravitate back to it.
“Media Noche” continues with the gentile, airy tone, but with more groove. Honestly, the rest of the album is much the same, and quite forgettable, with the exception of the concluding track, “Plato.” Now, it’s clear to me that Reyes is a big Plato fan (speaking of the philosopher, not the dwarf planet [don’t hate me for calling it a “dwarf” planet. I don’t make the rules.]). The name of the album, “Eikasia,” refers to a term Plato highlights in his Analogy of the Divided Line, meaning the inability for people to distinguish between the truly real and merely perceived reality. That’s probably the most interesting part of the “song” because there’s not much discernible music to it. It’s a modulated spoken word track that I don’t care to analyze any further because I feel cheated out of a track. The album is already short, perhaps mercifully, and this final track isn’t even a song.
In the end, I have to assume that Reyes simply has different tastes in music than I do. He’s trained in mostly classical and jazz guitar, and although he has the clear ability to abuse the hell out of that eight-string beast of a guitar he uses, for his own solo work, he wants something quiet, clean, and unobtrusive. Parts of this feel more like his own personal therapy than an attempt to entertain, and I can’t fault him for that necessarily, but I’m the one looking to be entertained. The guitarwork is flawless, and I don’t mind the atmospheric tones added in. The whole thing is rather nice, but nothing more. The opening track really had potential, but the rest of this is essentially milk-toast background music that is more fitting for a dimly lit lounge than my earphones.
FAVORITE TRACK: “El Mestizo”
RELEASE DATE: 9/7/2018
FOR FANS OF: Animals as Leaders, Bathroom Music