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Matthew Dear

Headcage EP

[Ghostly; 2012]

By ; January 17, 2012 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

Matthew Dear is a lucky artist. Lucky in that he has freedom to move about into and between different styles of music and call it his own, without having to worry too much about alienating listeners. He’s explored a multitude of song structures, textures and even concepts under his own name and others, and over the years it’s been like Dear has been revealing himself gradually, unfurling his personality through his music and lyrics. On 2009’s Black City, Dear explored grimy, seedy nightlife with music to match; it was a critical success but reset the counter and, once again, Dear had the option to go anywhere he really wanted to.

With the follow up to Black City announced for 2012 (entitled Beams), it’s fun to speculate as to where Dear might go exactly. Another album with a singular theme or feel throughout, or an album full of intertwining mismatching songs? If his latest EP, Headcage, is anything to go by, then your guess is as good as mine, really.

From the first track though, things definitely sound lighter, like a sunrise as opposed to the full mooned night sky of Black City. “Headcage” is a jittery and feverish track that does seem to have certain traits that could, perhaps, make it identifiable as a Matthew Dear song: synths that trickle up and down the register, fragments of Dear’s voice peppered here and there, strange and ambiguous lyrics sung in multitrack mode. It’s nothing dramatically different, but instead is more like Dear focusing himself to create a genuinely solid track (which is allowed to breathe more than before due to some helpful co-production from Van Rivers and the Subliminal Kid).

With Dear’s curious baritone now being a near enough permanent feature in his music, the arrival of Jonny Peirce (of The Drums) on “In The Middle ( I Met You There)” makes things open up even more. The loose, but strangely hypnotic feel of the track is carried wonderfully by Pierce’s sassy and higher voice, which is not only cut up and sprinkled around the track successfully by Dear like it’s his his own, but also sounds even better with Dear’s lower register behind it. Perhaps rather poignantly Pierce sings “You saved me from myself again,” making me think had he not been there, we would have been served a somewhat lackluster track by Dear.

What I do appreciate about Headcage as a whole is that Dear has tried to create something that flows. And, with that, the third track dials things back and slows down the pace. “Street Song” is a gloopy and aimless number that fails to imprint itself anywhere in your mind. I can imagine it being the sort of song Dear might have created to soundtrack driving through the city at night, under its repetitive orange streetlights, but it drags itself out too much, lasting just under four minutes. “Around A Fountain” attempts to bring the EP back to life, but, again, it doesn’t do much; lyrics that are hard to decipher are echoed from ear to ear, as a beat shuffles in and out of focus. If anything, it’s kind of like a spaced out version of the title track, but without any stylistic appeal.

Whether or not the tracks here are any indication as to what the music on Beams will be like is yet to be known, but even though Headcage has a pair of iffy tracks to weigh down two good – if not great – tracks, the whole EP sits in a generally favourable position in my view. While I can’t see myself making any sort of place for “Street Song” on my “All Time Favourite Matthew Dear Tracks,” I’m still slightly intrigued by it; the track sounds like it been taken out of another, perhaps more fitting context. This is just speculation though (and perhaps impatience too); where Dear’s music goes next is something only he knows.


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