Album Review: Matthew Dear / ‘Beams’ (Ghostly International)


Matthew Dear’s evolution continues, now settling into a midlife shuffle that marks the point where 2003’s Leave Luck to Heaven and fifth album Beams have very little in common. The vocal style that he’s allowed to seep through record by record now takes center stage, its leftfield pop aspiration sort of hanging off beats with a languid keeping of distance, using a kind of Beck-meets-Davids Byrne/Bowie gabble. Dear’s persona is now either too cool for everything, or not cool enough for anything, veiling happiness in a saddened slouch, with low-spirited charm (“Do the Right Thing”) or droning frustration (“Shake Me”).

An eponymous dedication to Detroit-schooled house and techno has now progressed into sounds nagging at the mainstream through plenty of 80s references (the infectious, even if you don’t know why, “Fighting is Futile” and the showy DIY funk “Up & Out”), while simultaneously sounding as if they want nothing to do with any particular scene (rebel without a cause “Earthforms,” electro burrower “Overtime”). It does leave fans in a quandary: embrace the changes or bemusedly wonder what’s going on.

May this review be so bold as to say if Dear’s original sound first rapt you, you don’t necessarily need this in your collection. For first-timers, everything sounds very well drilled as if this were Dear’s signature, skippered by a character that’ll take many listens to make sense of. A dream topic for message board arguers, that’s for sure.
File under: Tiga, Audion, Talking Heads

Matt Oliver

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