Review Summary: While Galaxy Garden finds Lone finally giving in to his inhibitions, this new facet of his identity ends up coming at a price
Depending on what side of the fence you land on, you’ve either applauded or decried Lone’s (a.k.a. Matt Cutler)efforts to simply refine his
sound rather than stretching his hazy palette beyond the sundrenched borders he’s paraded in since Everything Is Changing Colour
dropped back in 2007. And while five albums in six years is indicative enough of Cutler’s dedication to his craft, the almost insistent nature of his release schedule has dictated the lack of capriciousness in his work. He’s subtly, and even deftly, maneuvered his way through smeary and textural-heavy acid house, a brief nod to the abrasive thump of hip hop here, a casual glance at late-90s breaks there; but while the charm of his productions has always provided Lone with success he’s never been one to dip his toes into foreign waters. While his music has always appeared breezy and decidedly carefree, it has still masked a strict diligence, an unbreakable structure that’s conversely seen Cutler’s music occupy as much space on the dancefloor as it has lighting up beach front property as the sun dips below the horizon. Which makes Galaxy Garden
appear as even more than just the proverbial breath of fresh air that it is; while Cutler’s trademarks are still very much in effect (at no point here are you ever lead astray from the fact that you are listening to Lone material), his stockade of rigid uniformity, his leaden lines are now melted, coagulating in a pool of technicolor effervescence.
Perhaps it’s Lone’s relocation to R & S Records that’s invigorated this sense of elasticity in his work, this desire to, cheekily, color far outside the lines of his own creations. The smudgy, sepia-toned nostalgia of Emerald Fantasy Tracks
’ playground has since been given an overhaul; his reflective VHS strings and video-game tropes updated, his palm trees uprooted and sent off into distant orbit. The trick though, is that Galaxy Garden
isn’t a complete reassessment of Cutler’s identity, there’s still more than enough tried-and-tested truisms kicking around that stop the album from being the giant leap that Lone had earlier hinted at. As an act of progression, of furthering the ride, does Cutler map out Galaxy Garden
as the proverbial eclectic journey that it seemingly has been inspired by. Both ‘New Colour’ and ‘Animal Pattern’ play out in the fashion we’ve come to expect from Lone: teary-eyed wonky synths are juxtaposed against oddball syncopated percussion; two wholly separate yet intrinsic elements that are unraveled at different speeds, slowly winding down to their inevitable encounter. What begins initially as a paradox soon finds itself melding vibrantly into one clear-cut identity. As an introduction for Cutler’s efforts to defy the boundaries he’s held onto for so long, Galaxy Garden
certainly doesn’t shy away from drawing parallels and emotive gestures to the artist’s past.
This is by no means a terrible thing, to provide the listener with some kind of reference point, be it obvious infringement on earlier territory or simply another hand-cranked melody that borrows from its rich past. But when appropriated into this clearly more flamboyant persona of Lone it becomes hard not to question some of the choices made here. There’s nothing on the album that borders on being truly hostile, but Cutler is certainly operating at his most insistent and forceful here. This unfortunately creates paradoxes though: the shimmering and dizzying anthem of ‘Lying In The Reeds’ paired with the breakneck velocity of ‘Crystal Caverns 1991’ makes for a rather grand yet frighteningly abrupt transition (the calming interlude of ‘Dragon Blues Eyes’ only heightens the distance). And it’s on ‘Crystal Caverns 1991’ where Lone finally decides to get his hands dirty; while the Machinedrum-assisted ‘As A Child’ doles out its misfiring lasers in a clear show of unhinged bravado, it’s here where Cutler wholly applies himself as a dancefloor shaman. Yet another contradiction, it pulls the listener in with a false sense of security before scissor-cutting its way through painfully assembled acid rave synths and a galloping percussion line of breakbeat ferocity. He delves back into this warehouse rave allure with ‘Earth’s Lungs’, which interestingly begins with the kind of dusty paranoia of Actress at his most indisposed before it jettisons the minimal grandeur of mystique for the kind of unhinged vacuum-bass distortions that one wouldn’t normally associate with such an artist. It’s a leftfield entry for Cutler, and while surprising it’s also hardly memorable outside of its questionable authenticity.
It’s in these moments of pure unbridled showmanship that stick out the most not simply because of their justifiably intrusive nature, but by comparison do the rest of the tracks here come off as simply too polite. ‘As A Child’, while clearly knocking boots with footwork and that whole field of jittery percussion and stammering harmonies, also adds in acoustic strings and distant folksy ramblings that, quite literally, stop the beat dead in its tracks. ‘Raindance’, as an evolution of ‘Crystal Caverns 1991’, boils down the twisted angles and big room excitement into a sprightly j-pop-like version of its predecessor, that while interesting to the point of cursory examination is strangely dull and lifeless despite its kaleidoscopic reflective surface. ‘Cthulhu’ fares better, but as the only straight line in a sea of twists and turns, it’s hard not to view it as the black sheep of the album. It feels almost incomplete, a working sketch awaiting spare parts, in the interim still forced to dress up and be paraded around. It feels hollow, a composition of beat and echo that might have worked as a welcome resting point if not for the Anneka-assisted ‘Spirals’ that it precedes. As a final remark, ‘Spirals’ also suffers from a sense of flatness, of being spread just a little too thin. As a kind of working pop-house anecdote, it suffers with its lack of raw energy, the proverbial bite replaced by sultry and dulcet tones and the pitter-patter of handmade percussion. Given the manic nature of the album it closes, it comes off as a cheap way to finish, a cut-off or severing of ties, when those connections would have been better served all tied into one.
So while Galaxy Garden
sees Lone finally committing to that all-important “next step” it’s hardly the revolution previously alluded to. It’s a refreshing yet sweltering collection of acid rave and breakbeat conundrums, all held in check by Lone’s perfectionist qualities, but despite the upheaval Lone’s latest LP fires on all cylinders only when he chooses to hold onto that which has served him well in the past. The calm ferocity of Machinedrum’s Room(s)
, while a noted influence, only ends up sending Lone off into tangents better served for other producers. This facilitation, or need to explore sadly comes at a price; Galaxy Garden
as a whole suffers from being pulled in one too many directions; it’s the individual moments, the sounds in between the noise that end up benefiting from the most attention.