Matthew Dear – Black City (Ghostly International/Inertia)


Matthew Dear

It’s been a good three years since prolific Detroit-based electronic producer Matthew Dear released his acclaimed 2007 ‘Asa Breed’ album, and as the title suggests, this follow-up ‘Black City’, Dear’s fourth album under his given name inhabits distinctly darker and more moody aesthetic territory. In fact, Dear suggests that the ten tracks collected here conceptually centre around “the idea of a futuristic metropolis that never sleeps, full of lust, love and dark shadows”, something that proves to be a fitting description for the dark, obsessive synth pop directions being explored here. Indeed, compared to ‘Asa Breed’, the ten tracks that make up ‘Black City’ lurk far more in the shadows, with the angular Talking Heads-esque dance grooves of that aforementioned preceding record being taken down into grimier, noirish territory that’s if anything, noticeably rawer and funkier than its predecessor. What’s also immediately noticeable upon first listening is just how much Dear’s vocals and song-writing skills have moved up a few notches since ‘Asa Breed’, with the ten tracks here easily representing some of his strongest pop-oriented offerings to date.

Opening track ‘Honey’ slowly unfurls proceedings with a wash of laidback jazz-soul instrumentation, Dear’s deep, gravelly tones drifting like smoke over a gathering swell of guitar and synth harmonics, before the downright creepy ‘More Surgery’ sees his detached-sounding vocals (“I need more surgery / there’s so much more to know”) drifting over an almost clinical backdrop of bleeping electronics and Harmonium-esque motorik rhythms. If the latter track’s not already sinuous and unsettling enough, the stomping, pressurised ‘You Put A Smell On Me’ offers up what’s pretty much this album’s equivalent of NIN’s ‘Closer’ as well as its lust-packed centrepiece as evil distorted synth busts and factory-line bass grooves power beneath Dear’s menacing yet enticing growled vocal come-ons and flitting, yelped backing vocal harmonies, while the nine minute long ‘Little People (Black City)’ easily provides this album’s most straight-ahead dancefloor centred moment, with Dear’s soaring falsettos gliding out over a distinctly post-Arthur Russell backdrop of fluid disco beats and elastic bass figures, the momentum nearing near hypnotic mantra levels by the end. Dark, obsessive and frequently seedy stuff that easily represents some of the strongest vocal pop-oriented material that Matthew Dear’s released to date – fans of his preceding ‘Asa Breed’ collection should be thrilled.

Chris Downton


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