Matthew McQueen, aka Matthewdavid, arrives as yet another example of an electronic musician who has found a home, sound and audience in Los Angeles. A chance meeting with Flying Lotus at – where else? – Low End Theory in late 2006 marked the start of a friendship with the influential electronica artist, whose own career was only just taking off. Nearly five years later, FlyLo’s own Brainfeeder label have released Matthewdavid’s debut record, Outmind.
The first thing that becomes apparent from listening to Outmind is its fragmentary, hallucinatory nature. It’s fragmentary in that the songs are largely short, shards of sound that fall or loop into each other, while it’s hallucinatory in the sense that LA must be in the heat of high summer – anyone who’s experienced the unique, overbearing mix of heat and intense haze of a city in summer time will find elements to recognise in Outmind. LA’s isolation and the vast rocky scenery around it are immediately conjured when I hear this album – if Daedelus’ recent record reflects the LA scenes collaborative spirit, then Matthewdavid stays firmly inside his own head (despite the title) and the music often has the tone of exhausted isolation, rather like the textures of Fennesz filtered through Flying Lotus’ hazy aesthetic.
‘Like You Mean It’ is announces itself as a standout early on – the throbbing baseline and stuttering, cycling beats holding together just, as a voice rises out of the mess of sound as if you’re twisting the dial on a car radio. Voices emerge out of the mix sparingly, but when they do they serve to orientate you a little – McQueen can tend to rely on ambience at times and these moments of clarity are welcome signposts along the way. Even when he’s indulging in ambient soundscapes, however, he can’t seem to focus for long – the sounds and textures are constantly changing and shifting, even in very short pieces.
As is becoming increasingly the case with releases from artists from LA, the usual touchstones of instrumental hiphop aren’t enough – Outmind is carefully eclectic, combining elements of Fennesz-like ambience as I’ve mentioned, with irregular IDM rhythms, as well as fragments of soul and jazz. Tracks like ‘Today, The Same Way’ or ‘International (feat Dogbite)’ seem to contain all these things and more at once – as ever, your tolerance for layers of sounds will determine how much you engage with this stuff. The contrast with the way certain UK producers are exploring space and silence at the moment couldn’t be more apparent – it’ll be interesting to hear if these two approaches begin to overlap as the artists on both sides of the Atlantic develop.
Overall then, Matthewdavid’s debut LP is a journey through a dense, hazy mesh of clashing sounds and genres that flits between lucidity and abstraction. If at times Outmind gets too lost in itself, then McQueen can be relied upon to pull the music back on track as the next track looms into view. Throughout, however, he manages to tow the line brilliantly between a sense of introspective claustrophobia and conjuring up more expansive soundscapes.