Review : Matthew Dear- Beams
PitchforkMatthew Dear is an illusionist. Each successive release under the Detroit producer's own name has seen him reveal more of himself as he simultaneously retreats deeper into the shadows. As his singing voice continues to take a front-and-center position in his slithery electronic pop productions, it's also acquired a dark and oily air of decadence. Beams, his fifth solo full-length under his own name, is said by its maker to be more "positive" in disposition than 2010's high-water mark Black City. But don't be fooled. "I laughed when they hit you with their sticks/ You cried," goes one refrain.
So the sinister hedonism continues. And while there's nothing quite as tongue-in-ear lascivious as Black City's Reznor-ian "You Put a Smell on Me", Beams' constant neon-gray chug brings to mind a party that never ends. Synths peer through the chemical murk, occasionally breaking through before getting swallowed up by clouds of grime. Basslines wobble with sickness. The song in which Dear sums up the whole vibe-- "Take a trip on something else"-- is called "Fighting Is Futile", and the title defines Beams' album-length experience: Dramamine be damned, it's tough to pull your way out of this thing.
There's been no reason to assume that Matthew Dear lives this hedonistic shit for real, but Beams feels more personal. The first-person pronoun is all over these 11 tracks. Dear wasn't always comfortable being so bold, either vocally and in terms of accessible songwriting. His 2003 debut, Leave Luck to Heaven, and the following year's Backstroke saw his voice gasping in bursts under the abstract, janky techno soundscapes that are associated with his track-oriented work as Audion. The side of Dear that most are familiar with today emerged on 2007's enjoyable Asa Breed, a watershed that lacked cohesion but made up for its disjointed faults by virtue of sheer pop playfulness. Black City brought all these elements together, but Beams actually one-ups its predecessor in terms of cohesion. The album is Dear's most consistent work yet, operating as one upward build that, save for the leaden "Shake Me" (which feels out of place even without knowing its status as a repurposed demo that dates back to 2003), moves in the same direction until its conclusion....full text
GhostlyEarly on in Matthew Dear's Beams— the New York-based artist's fourth full-length, his first since 2010’s shadowy masterpiece Black City— something strange happens. A thick-fingered electric bass gallops in atop a driving backbeat as Dear sneers, "It’s alright to be someone else sometimes." It may be odd to hear former techno-wunderkind Matthew Dear playing rock music, but the manic punk pulse of "Earthforms" is just one facet of Beams’ kaleidoscopic journey. Shot through with equal parts optimism and uneasiness, Beams is the latest transmission from one of pop music's most fascinating creative minds.
Recorded in Dear's home studio and mixed at Nicolas Vernhes' Rare Book Room studios in Brooklyn, Beams evokes a day-lit dreamworld at once strange and familiar. While the album's dancefloor-ready tempos, major keys, and sun-warmed synths signal Beams as the lighter, brighter response to its predecessor, closer inspection reveals a squirming mass of oddball details. Dear's latest productions creak and groan like anxious organisms, with slivers of guitar, electric bass, and drum kit darting in and out among the synths and samples. Beams delights in thoughtful leftfield juxtapositions: the leathery, handclap-heavy funk of "Up & Out" barrels into the anxious wig-out of "Overtime"; the dark, burbling dirge "Shake Me" sets the stage for the melancholic simmer of album closer "Temptation".
Beams’ lyrics, meanwhile, are deeply personal, expressing vulnerability and confusion in startlingly immediate ways. "Do I feel love like all of the others or is this feeling only mine?" Dear sings on the strutting lead-off single "Her Fantasy", later wondering "Am I one heartbeat away from receiving a damaging shock to my life?" Dear has grown into his songwriting voice, and he wears his current lyrical perspective—that of a man with something to lose—with an impressive grace....full text
PastemagazineI cannot tell if the man-woman hollering in “Her Fantasy” says “compliments,” “confidence” or “coffee beans,” but I’m really rooting for the latter as they are the sole source of my energy to write this. I listened to Beams, the sixth full-length release from Matthew Dear, probably a dozen times‚ usually while splayed on my sweaty couch with my roommates and always while hopped on nicotine. Today I tried an alternative approach, loading the record onto my busted iPhone and setting up camp in a climate-controlled coffeeshop. The only drug I’m on is caffeine, but the whistles and sound walls of what might be a chorus of singing babies suggest otherwise. Dear’s voice whips around like a velveteen state flag atop a blustery mountain. A disco beat pulses, hot with fury.
The following track, “Earthforms,” takes a breakneck turn of tone. It rocks with a cactus spine-studded baseline, solidifying its outlier status on the record. Sometimes the track grows so bold as to summon Interpol-esque affection, like a glamourous vulture on a southwestern highway.
Man, if lightning bugs could sing, they would sing like the soprano sample in “Ahead of Myself.” It’s all about crossing bridges before they even appear in soft focus on the horizon‚ as you might have guessed from the song’s title. Although it’s a trite concept, Dear’s delivery sounds new, bathed in glowing, emerald light....full text
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