Review Summary: Cutler takes last year's tropical sound, dries it up, and takes it in this squeaky-clean new direction.
It's not hard to recognize for those who have listened to it, but Lone's 2007 debut album/demo was pretty damn Boards of Canada
sounding. Sure, it had its own unique "Matt Cutler" tint to it, but with tracks such as "Dueling Auroras" and "Pure White Light", the influence leaks quite a bit. You can also hear a bit of Chris Clark
in "Proper Vivid" and "Summer by Summer". That's not uncommon for your inspirations to be heard in your early musical career, especially when you play underground myspace-distributed music. My point? Despite these audible influences, Lone had plenty of potential and unique style to his sound, the kind of which was further defined on 2008's excellent Lemurian
. He's the kind of underground electronic artist you look forward to releasing a new album and anticipate a snazzy mainstream breakthrough.
With his 2009 follow-up, Ecstasy & Friends
, Lone experiments a bit with his electronic prowess; for the most part, this record shows an even more unique-sounding Lone. Still utilizing hip-hop beats, he doesn't necessarily drop his Lemurian
posture, but he uses beats in a more subtle way. Think of last year's "Sea Spray", only without the bass. He uses dry undertones to handle the beats and rhythm, with old-school clapping and "invisible sound" beats for percussion. The album veers into more psychedelic territory in virtually every track, with an unyielding elation carrying you through it all. Ecstasy
's tone is a bit nostalgic, like a less ominous Boards of Canada, ushering Lone's interesting new sentiment and creating a complete "Hakuna Matata" world in the process. Tracks like "Waves Imagination", "Arcade" and "Love Heads" probably represent the album's cherished glitter and gleam the best.
Seeing as he's dropped the hip-hop he polished in 2008, the overall sound quality is much cleaner and less fuzzy, which in turn makes Ecstasy
's glossy sound more sparkly and sharpened. Without any vocals (minus some brief samples), we're left with plenty of imagination and daydreaming to take part in shaping our feelings for the album. The film of intoxication found here isn't new to Lone, but its application to the music sure is different. The songs are longer than the ones found on Lemurian
(which ran roughly 1-3 minutes each), but this can be practical or harmful. Generally the longer song durations mean there's a bit more going on in the songs, seen on the thrilling album opener "To Be With A Person that You Really Dig" and the dynamic "Love Heads". However, it grows noticeable over time that songs tend to border repetitive territory, especially on "The Twilight Switch" and "Paradise Backyard Jam", but to their benefit they end before it becomes too tedious. Some of the longer songs like "Waves Imagination" and "Karen Loves Kate" are great, filling songs but again they may drag to some listeners. This may make Ecstasy
a bit harder to sit through for some, but it can be easily forgiven to those who appreciate Lone's creative landscape.
For all its high and low points, Ecstasy & Friends
certainly is an important record for Lone's underground, overlooked musical journey. In terms of exploring new ideas, Matt Cutler succeeds with his 2009 album, taking listeners to a more nostalgic, lustrous place in his world. With a more experimental approach taken, Lone further defines his sound, continuing down his journey of successively unique albums. A bit less definitive than Lemurian
, it's nonetheless a perfectly respectable album that still proves that Lone has great potential and a mystifying, magical world within his music.