Stateless
Matilda


4.0
excellent

Review

by Nick Butler EMERITUS
April 11th, 2011 | 25 replies


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The best debut album of 2007 gets an even better sequel.

It's always a thrill when a band arrives on their debut album as fully formed as Stateless did, but it become a hurdle to overcome by the time the second album rolls around - if you're already the finished article, what can you add? Then again, when a single answers those questions as brilliantly and succinctly as "Ariel" did, you've got to hold your hands up and give your congratulations.

But "Ariel", with its fluid Arabic countermelodies and quasi-exotic percussion, doesn't point the way for the rest of the album in the way you might expect. Those elements are largely confined to that song and sections of the closer "I Shall Not Complain"; instead it's the chorus, with its heavy, juddering bass attack, that lets you know what to expect. Stateless was clearly an electronic album primarily, swiping most of its moves from the likes of DJ Shadow, Massive Attack, and latter day Radiohead, but it tended to sound organic - Matilda drives things into territory that's unmistakably the work of computers. The rumbling, droning bass and glitches on "Song for the Outsider", the almost retro drum machine on "Miles to Go", the heavy, angular synths on "Assassinations" and "I Shall Not Complain", the distorted, throaty sweeps on "Red Sea", the arpeggiator on "Curtain Call"; there are several touches here that never let you forget that you're listening to an electronic band. That wasn't the case on Stateless, almost all of which could have been performed on acoustic instruments.

Arguably, this sees the band lose their greatest strength - the synergy between man and machine on Stateless was frequently flawless, offering up a sound that was futuristic and pristine, but also deeply human. Yet they can still do human, and to a greater extent than they have been - the excellent "I'm on Fire" (featuring Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond) is the finest example of that, being probably the most well-judged and convincing Jeff Buckley soundalike since Scott Matthews released "Elusive". His influence was present throughout Stateless, but was bubbling below the surface - by dragging it right to the surface here, they've opened themselves up to copycat taunts, but they've also written one of the best tracks they'll probably ever write, and that's more important in the long run. Elsewhere, it's like the turn toward electronics has forced them to find newer and more extreme ways to express their organic side, as if to counter-balance it - "Ballad of NGB", "Junior", and the start of "Song for the Outsider" are drenched in strings contributed by the Balanescu Quartet (with "Junior" also giving vocalist Chris James an unexpected opportunity to stretch out into soul territory), while "Curtain Call", "Red Sea", and "Visions" drift into post-rock.

I have to confess that, even after loving their debut as much as I did, I didn't expect them to come back with a second album as good as this. Still recognisably the work of the same band (an impression largely helped by James' arresting voice), Matilda expands on the palette considerably, shooting off on several tangents without muddying the overall aesthetic at all. It's harder to get into than Stateless, but once this sinks in properly, it's even better. Even if I'd set my expectations high, I think I'd still be surprised and impressed by this. Bravo, guys.



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user ratings (49)
Chart.
3.8
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Polymath
April 11th 2011


3836 Comments


Wow man, Brilliant review! This sounds extremely interesting.

FourSquare20
April 11th 2011


320 Comments


Yeah, this does sound cool. I'll check it out. Nice review.

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
April 11th 2011


23976 Comments


I must have missed said debut hmm

This sounds nice though, I'll give it a listen.

Digging: Marketa Irglova - Muna

kingsoby1
Emeritus
April 11th 2011


4951 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

this is great so far thanks nick

kingsoby1
Emeritus
April 11th 2011


4951 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

wow "I'm on Fire" is so epic jesus christ

captaincrunch11
April 11th 2011


1241 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is so good.

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
April 12th 2011


31493 Comments


Yeah these guys are awesome

Digging: Hyperdub - Hyperdub 10.4

MutnikSpusic
April 12th 2011


560 Comments


YES!


psykonaut
April 12th 2011


3913 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i am intrigued.

iisblackstar
April 12th 2011


431 Comments


not usually my thing but checked it out and its awesome

Steoandnoodles
April 13th 2011


2832 Comments


This is on my 'listen to' list for the weekend. =)
Seems good.

DoubtGin
April 13th 2011


6752 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I like this

kingsoby1
Emeritus
April 13th 2011


4951 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

this vocalist is probably the reincarnation of jeff buckley

iisblackstar
April 13th 2011


431 Comments


definitely, i couldnt believe it when i first heard it.

captaincrunch11
April 14th 2011


1241 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Ariel is so fucking good god damnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn

iisblackstar
April 14th 2011


431 Comments


really deserves more love.. effin brilliant

Steoandnoodles
April 15th 2011


2832 Comments


A good record. Didn't like this as much as I thought I would. Yeah, it's not bad. Some of the sounds
on tracks like 'Visions' are beautiful. On other tracks the sounds drag the songs into utter
obscurity.

kingsoby1
Emeritus
April 15th 2011


4951 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

this really is incredible. probably one of my top 3-5 so far this year

MassiveAttack
April 16th 2011


2688 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I think I'm already sold when you said this: "swiping most of its moves from the likes of DJ Shadow, Massive Attack, and latter day Radiohead, but it tended to sound organic"

SwayzeFaced
April 17th 2011


349 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

dancin in the kitchen cookin up a snow storm.

sweet album



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