Aug 29, 2012 Web Exclusive
Matthew Dear's artistic profile reads like a discarded verse from LCD Soundsystem's "Losing My Edge," with a career that has thus far encompassed glitch, microhouse, Detroit techno, electropop, and tech house; been recorded under such aliases as False, Audion, and Jabberjaw; and influenced by the likes of New York and Berlin, Eno, Adonis, and Talking Heads. He may not have registered in the hipster consciousness to quite the same degree as James Murphy, but over the past nine years and five full-length albums, Dear has quietly gone about proving himself to be one of the most ambitious and serious electronica artists out there.
For many, his last record, 2010's Black City, was his high water mark. Its highly-charged textures and the introduction of a funkier sound were reminiscent of early TV on the Radio, and followers of Dear's career thus far will be unsurprised to hear that new album Beams is more of a natural progression than a radical departure. Those same funky bass lines are there—"Earthforms" essentially takes its rhythm section from Joy Division's "She's Lost Control"—but there's also a return to his minimalist predilections.
Gone are the Dave Sitek-esque density and the throbbing colors of Black City's grooves. In their place come the eponymous beams of grey light, lighter rhythms, and single synths on the likes of "Ahead of Myself," which steers clear of the walls of sound so beloved by his contemporaries Interpol and Hot Chip. This is Dear's post-punk record; a Krautrock countenance blended with his inherent Detroit techno sensibilities is evident from the opener "Her Fantasy" and bleeding throughout Beams.
But for a funky post-punk electronica record, Beams isn't actually a huge amount of fun. Even though it's awkward to dance to, it is nevertheless a piece of work to be admired and, given the kaleidoscopic myriad of influences mentioned here, it's clear that this is something that stands on its own merits.
Author rating: 7.5/10
Average reader rating: 8/10
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