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This review is from: Black City (Audio CD)
There are advantages to having dissociative identity disorder. Matthew Dear, synth pop crooner with the voice no one would ever wish on a synth pop crooner, sounds like no one else. Because he spends more energy making things than slavishly listening to antecedents--Brian Eno, David Bowie, Depeche Mode, OMD--what comes out is just as idiosyncratic. As DJ, producer, frontman, Matthew Dear, Audion, Jabberjaw and False, he just doesn't have time for anything else.
Black City, his newest album, is the same as his previous work under his own name. It's synth pop. Sort of. It's pop music. Maybe. But mostly it's just Matthew Dear. The songs have the same sort of weird grain to them as something from DJ Koze or Pepe Bradock: It's instantly identifiable but almost impossible to pin down. Most often there's a queasiness to the songs on Black City: "Shortwave" slinks along, slow-motion lasers lazily firing away in the background along with a "eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee" from Dear that never quite makes it to the fore. "Slowdance" plods along at 90 BPM and ends with Dear doing doo-wop with himself.
In the press leading up to the album, Ghostly has emphasized the darkness of the album. How "Black City can't be found on any map. It's a composite, an imaginary metropolis peopled by desperate cases, lovelorn souls, and amoral motives." I don't know about that, really, because the only lyrics I made out clearly and immediately on first listen were the lines: "I'm...I'm a monkey / Frozen in my monkey dream / It's time...time to monkey / Lost in our monkey sleep." But maybe that's what they mean. If that's the only thing you can understand, you're in a place where understanding isn't all that important anyway.
I find that Matthew Dear's work, at its best, is all about the same things that his best dance music is about: Plotting out a strange and engrossing rhythm that's going to hold up to repeat listening. To this end, Black City is just as good as Asa Breed. A weird sort of funk is pervasive, grooves that are fine at first, better later and amazing a month after that. Like Asa, it's bursting-at-the-seams with ideas and sounds that take time to marinate. While Dear doesn't have the time to slow down, Black City offers you a good reason why you should.
Words - Todd L. Burns