Eyedress, the recording moniker of Filipino musician Idris Vicuña, is making whacked out music perfect for a disturbing world. His albums Manila Ice and Sensitive G alluringly blend hazy dream pop and shimmering shoegaze with the antisocial attitude of gutter punk and gangsta rap. He sounds like he’s from an alternate timeline where in the early 1990s, NWA decided to join forces with My Bloody Valentine, with dark lyrics about street life slurred over hypnotic soundscapes.
Eyedress isn’t just biting international influences though- his music is thoroughly rooted in the specific social and political context of his home country. Like South Africa, the East Asian island nation of the Philippines has a complex and violent past and present. Through its history, it was occupied in turn by the Spanish, the Americans and the Japanese. These interventions were met with intense resistance, feeding into various Maoist and Islamist insurgencies which continue to this day. A highly unequal country, dominated by a class of wealthy land-owning families, it has also been subjected to a series of authoritarian rulers. During the Cold War, the US-backed dictator Ferdinand Marcos had alleged drug dealers executed on live tv, while his wife Imelda was notorious for owning over 3000 pairs of luxury shoes. Its current president, Rodrigo Duterte came to power promising a violent “war on drugs”, even bragging about personally murdering suspects while mayor of the city of Davao. All the evidence suggests that this is really a brutal war against the poor, with the police encouraged to run clandestine death squads.
In his often-hilarious interviews, Eyedress presents himself as a wayward decadent, who just wants to do some drugs and make music. But he is clearly concerned about the reign of state terror burning through his country. His striking videos present Manila as a feverish, sweltering dystopia of nightlife and guns, while his lyrics declaim the violence and hypocrisy of the police, who take bribes from civilians one minute, only to murder them the next. His striking blend of woozy psychedelia and hard-edged political reality make him a potent new voice worth listening to.