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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Matthew Dear - Asa Breed

posted by on June 20 at 14:46 PM


Ghostly International darling Matthew Dear’s newest full-length, Asa Breed has been out for a couple weeks now, but it’s just starting to sink in for me now what a great record it is. His last full-length under his own name (he also records minimal electronics under the names Jabberjaw and False and abrasive techno under the Audion alias), Leave Luck To Heaven was a major statement for the then nascent microhouse genre, and its surprise hit “Dog Days” (not to mention the equally stunning “It’s Over Now”) was a hint at greater pop possibilities, an aerobic yet sentimental fusion of vocal laptop pop and twitchy techno funk.

Since then, Dear’s released the fine stopgap EP Backstroke, which contained the single “Tide,” an even poppier, less dance-oriented track that featured lumbering bass guitar and commanding vocals over Dear’s usual granular rhythms. Dear also invented the Audion alias in the time between LPs as an outlet for his harsher instrumentals, and that release seems to have given him a renewed focus for his eponymous work.

Where Leave Luck to Heaven and Backstroke both exhibited a certain tension between pop sensibilities and more typically electronic tracks, Asa Breed is an unapologetic pop album, without any songs over the 4 1/2 minute mark (and most clocking in under 3 1/2) and without a single instrumental track. Which is not to say that Dear’s stopped paying attention to his production—the songs here are backed by some of his slickest and most engaging compositions yet, many of them relying more on vocal and acoustic samples than anything on his previous albums. But every track is driven by his rich, sometimes detached baritone and his alternately forlorn and darkly playful lyrics—Dave Gahan and Ian Curtis are not inappropriate comparisons, although Dear’s still a hair shy of their best songwriting.

Advance single “Deserter” evokes still-mourning early New Order with its robotic drumming, crystalline synths, and introspective lyrical longing. The bouncy micro pop of “Neighborhoods” and hollow r&b of “Elementary Lover” and “Don and Sherri” more closely resemble the vocal work from Leave Luck To Heaven. “Shy” recalls the ’80s gloss of San Serac. Spoken word Texas death trip “Vine to Vine” is a minor misstep. I’m still getting to know the album’s other tracks, but I’m becoming more fond of the record with each listen.

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Oh, but the guitar on "Vine to Vine" is so haunting. It reminds me of tracks from Buck 65's Secret House Against the World. That song will grow on you, trust.

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