Matthew Dear - Black City
Matthew Dear's Black City is one of those special albums that captures darkness and dispenses with just enough menacing restraint to hold your attention and never go over the top. This is an art album of sorts, not one that, for all of its electronic-influence and motivating beats, that tries to get you moving or make you dance. Though track 3 "Little People (Black City)" shades toward an LCD Soundsystem-like deliberation. Dear creates a lot of mood throughout the album, and buries the lyrics under one type of droning tone or another, which free the vocals up to enact some A Cappella instrumental value. And yet, even when the electronic aspects of the music evaporate or fade out, Dear leaves us with well thought out and strong-finishing tracks that all feel a little lonely or contemplative, but nonetheless human and alive. The scratching and primarily instrumental "Soil To Seed" illustrates this idea well, by first beginning with just a guitar, then garbled words and finishing on the human growl of the vocal.
And throughout its ten songs Black City feels like a place as much as an album. It feels oppressive and alive, as if the black sky were suddenly roused from its sleep to bellow menacingly down upon the people below. There are definitely a couple, perhaps a few, songs that could be considered traditional electronic and dance-ready, but for the most part this is the type of music one listens to while staring at the ceiling after eating mushrooms. It is creatures and melancholy, madness and passion, all grown together. And all of it is passionate. The greatest thing Dear does on the album, though, is close out the album on a sweet, choral and freeing note. "Gem" starts with a brief glitch, and then turns to pianos and a looped track of laughter, all set up by rushing waves of static. It is a song that feels like the beach, it feels like solemn moments spent out by the water, questioning ones choices as the sun sets, knowing that the light is leaving and that time is passing rapidly. "No reward for calling out your name, as I have done time and time again," starts the second verse of haunting lyrics. And for all its sadness, this captivating song closes on soft piano and cresting waves. And the distant cry of a single voice before fading to black.
Black City is every bit the masterpiece it has been reviewed to be. Matthew Dear has captured a litany of emotions and crafted them into mood and sound. It is shoe-gazey, and electronic, and dark, but there's a place for music like that in all our libraries, just as there is a place for those feelings in all of our lives.
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