Almost three-and-a-half years after they released Six Rocks, GB and Yeofi Andoh reappeared under their duo alias the Steoples with a fluid if twisting rumination on the ecstasy and agony of a vanishing romance. The veteran underground musicians soon made it known that "Alas Alice" wasn't a metaphor for the Steoples, as their second album, Wide Through the Eyes of No One, landed within a few months. "Alas Alice" reappears here as a bonus track. Although it isn't quite congruous with what precedes it, the song indicated the album's stormy mix of contrasting emotions and sounds, and its effect, a sense of solace -- with a tender overarching message to stay openhearted and resolute -- in response to turbulence. Whereas much of Six Rocks was purposefully undone and structurally oblique, this set is bound tighter, perhaps a consequence of additional live instrumentation, such as the softly buoyant bass of Joel Whitley. No one integrates and modernizes disparate R&B sounds across eras quite like GB and Andoh do here. Late-'60s psychedelic soul, progressive '70s folk-jazz (particularly Terry Callier's), and early-'80s machine soul are all in the mix. In the most energized moments, there are hints of latter-day Masters at Work fusionist dancefloor projects like Nuyorican Soul and Elements of Life, though the constant somber quality in Andoh's transfixing voice is always present, and there are some eerie currents from what sounds like a Mellotron. The sequencing front-loads the material filled with celebratory spirit and renewed appreciation for the sharing of space ("Ain't it natural to sing along?"), illuminated with dancing strings, flickering guitar, and caressing female background vocals. It stars to get real dim around "Lonely Behavior," a chilling ballad of isolation ("When I see my friends, they pixelatin'"). During the second half, the album slips into pitch-black darkness for "Leaning on Me," with Andoh bewailing his "laces left untied" and "face pushed to the ground," but it's drawn beautifully with whirling synthesizers and a layered vocal arrangement evoking the image of the subject being pulled into a vortex. Out of that burbles and churns "The Real Wealth," where Andoh consults an elder and gets some poetic wisdom that rejuvenates his spirit. It isn't the last song on the album proper, but it's the payoff -- a heartening one at that.
Wide Through the Eyes of No One Review
by Andy Kellman