Review Summary: If you’re looking for Black City 2.0, you’ve got it, except blander and boring.
What in the world happened to this guy? He used to be very captivating and smart and a beyond excellent electronic producer. Especially with his previous classic releases such as Backstroke
or Leave Luck To Heaven
where he was the catalyst for the oddball genre microhouse immensely with such songs like Another, Dog Days, Grut Wall and many others. Microhouse is a genre that blends tiny micro-beats or samples into the style of house music. The sublime, but stiff, robotic and (later) grooving sound of it was a critical part of what made Matthew Dear's music so unbelievable and his music was also one of the first to popularize the microhouse genre. Another thing that made his music so enjoyable was his vocals. Asa Breed
was the first album to use vocals on every track, whereas his previous albums had only 2-3 songs that contained vocals. His rich baritone voice was quite dismal, dreary and it really catches the attention of the listener. A thing though I noticed about Asa Breed
is that there was a bit of a lack of microhouse and it leaned more towards just house and a few other genres which is fine and there’s nothing wrong with that, but it made me wonder what was in store for in the future. It was then that the album Black City
came out in 2010 and it was a bit shocked to hear all of the micro-beat and micro sample influences completely gone and onto the sound of dark and gritty synthpop. However, even if it was a shock, it was still a very enjoyable album. It was funky, exciting, danceable and Matthew Dear’s voice sounded great even if the lyrics were a bit cheesy (“I'm a monkey / Frozen in my monkey dream / It's time...time to monkey / Lost in our monkey sleep."). Personally, I much preferred his albums before it and therefore I was disappointed.
Now he’s hit a critical point in his career in 2012 with a brand new album that will determine what direction he goes in now. Will his new album Beams
return to his microhouse roots and make more classic songs like Another, Neighborhoods or Tides? Will it have the catchiness and inspiring sounds that once added to the growing genre? The answer is no. Sadly, the album still keeps the same sort of vibes from Black City
and in doing so adding in more of an Afro-Caribbean vibe. As soon as I listened to the first song “Her Fantasy” I was immediately disappointed.
The song is 6 minutes long and it sounds like a dance party in a chaotic jungle. It is incredibly boring, bland and instead of Matthew Dear adding anything to the music with his vocals he distracts us from the rhythm of the music and makes it hard to enjoy the song. The odd sound effects that sound like a jungle add absolutely nothing interesting to the song and it makes the song very annoying. Not to mention that the song meanders far longer then it needs to be and ends very loudly and just when you wish it would change, the bland nature continues on with songs like Earthforms, Overtime, Get the Rhyme Right and then with the remainder of the songs after that. They aren’t bad per se, but are simply weaker replications of his earlier and better songs. The song Ahead of Myself portrays a lot of glitchy samples that reminisce a time when Matthew Dear was making better albums than this and the song actually is a lot stronger than most of the stuff on here, but it suffers from the same flaw that the rest of the album goes through: the songs are really not that captivating past the first minute and a half of almost. To end off the bad part of this album there isn’t really anything very
bad about it, but it’s incredibly disappointing for me when his other albums are much more interesting, fun and alluring. Almost every song gets bland and repetitive with little next to nothing gained, but nothing lost as well.
However, there is a shred of hope for this album. It is a very exotic-like danceable album and if it may not be so bland if one were to focus on the melodies and rhythms more than his gloomy low vocals and just danced. Songs like Headcage and Fighting Is Futile are some of the few moments where this album gets to be a very exciting listen. With some micro-sampled vocals in the background of Fighting is Futile and the funky house rhythms on both tracks while singing some low and catchy lyrics that are meant to be distracting, but actually enjoyable as both songs showcase the very few highlights this album has to offer. The song Shake Me takes a weird turn and goes in a slow dub direction which slithers all over the song as a hard hitting piano layers itself over top of it. The airy vocals that start around the 1:50 mark of the song add so much to the atmosphere of the song as it makes this one of the least bland song on the album, much like the last song on the album Temptation which also has a bit of atmosphere as well. It also is a strong finisher to the album and also another example of how the vocals add a more fun and exciting nature to the album instead of a bland one.
The desire to say more positive things about this album is overwhelming, but I simply can’t. Not after such classics that Matthew Dear has brought us in the past. This is an overly bland, boring and weak replication of his previous and better albums. It’s enjoyable to an extent and I recommend it to people who haven’t already listened to Matthew Dear, but for those of you that have listened, it will be a disappointment. Just cradle up in your bed with Leave Luck To Heaven
and wish this album would disappear.