Review : Matthew Dear - Beams
PopmattersMatthew Dearís CV certainly doesnít give the impression of a shrinking violet. On the contrary, he is well regarded as a talented producer and multi-instrumentalist, not to mention co-founder of pioneering, independent record label Ghostly International, home to a number of other high-profile electronic artists, such as Gold Panda and School Of Seven Bells.
As a solo artist, Dear remains somewhat of an enigma, with much of his work up until now, overshadowed by a heavy debt owed to his electro art-pop forebears. He started out as a DJ, and much of his work outside of that profession has been marked by a hangover from those days; Dear metaphorically carrying his record collection around with him and wearing his influences on his sleeve. Maybe you can credit much of his oracularity to this. Indeed if you close your eyes and listen to his early output, you can almost feel the distant, melodic hum of a nightclub, the lights slowly strobing across the dancefloor, as he deftly crossfades between Talking Heads, Inner City and Neu!.
Thatís not to say that this transparency detracts from his sound, just that such obvious heritage has often made his own voice less distinct. These influences which were so overt in his earlier, more experimental, output began to dissipate somewhat with the release of 2010ís beautiful Black City. If the title wasnít implication enough, the album formulates itself as a greyscale digital landscape, which is dark, unsettling and more self-assured than anything that preceded it.
Tellingly, the cover artwork for Beams, his fifth solo outing, is an impressionistic portrait of Dear himself, his face illuminated by thick brushstrokes and bright colours, still a little indistinct but bold nevertheless. This artwork is a good primer for the mood that runs through the 11 transformative electro-pop journeys which follow. It captures Dear at the moment when he moves out of the shadows, digests the inheritance of his influences and creates something which is definitively his own....full text
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
BbcArguably the least Texan-sounding Texan recording artist in musical history, Matthew Dear makes intelligent, almost lugubrious electronic art-pop. Influenced by his college days in Michigan and Detroitís position as the birthplace of techno, Dear initially had more impact as dance act Audion than as the maker of two largely ignored albums back in 2003 and 2004.
The turning point was 2007ís Asa Breed, a masterpiece of witty, understated but effortlessly funky synth-pop that stands as one of the high watermarks of this centuryís electronic post-punk revival. 2010ís Black City followed; darker, more sonically aggressive and impressive, but lacking Asa Breedís subtle charm.
Dearís fifth album sees the songwriter, keyboardist, guitarist, singer, producer, DJ and all-round clever dick making a bigger, more accessible sound; one informed by having his own four-piece band and touring the world supporting the likes of Hot Chip and Interpol.
Beams provides more evidence of Dearís two unusual talents. First, he is able to reassemble a set of easily identifiable 70s/80s influences (heís always been open about his debt to Bowie, Eno and Talking Heads) while simultaneously making a noise that is now unmistakably Matthew Dear....full text
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