Album Review: Black City - Matthew Dear

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Sometimes Matthew Dear makes glitch. Sometimes he makes techno. Sometimes he just makes insanity. And increasingly he appears to be favouring the latter.

Sometimes Matthew Dear makes glitch. Sometimes he makes techno. Sometimes he just makes insanity. And increasingly he appears to be favouring the latter.

Following up on his first two albums, Leave Luck to Heaven and Backstroke, Asa Breed was a startling revelation. As much pop as dance, in places tender and wounded and in others aloof and lyrically impenetrable. And since BlackPlastic is ultimately often fond of music that requires a bit of thought, it was one of those albums that we kept coming back to.

Black City is as the title implies - a dark journey through a nighttime urban sprawl inside Dear's mind. It's a darker affair that culminates in the sordid workout of album centrepiece and highlight, the fantastically titled 'You Put A Smell On Me'. Dear's vocals are hardly robust but when he tweaks them in the right way, as he does here - "I'm gonna try you on, and exercise" - he nails his 'thing' somewhere south of sub-zero on the cool wall.

So if you hadn't already guessed, Black City is at times a touch sordid. Whilst nothing touches the mechanical sleazy genius of 'You Put A Smell On Me' in terms of pure filth there is a vibe of sex and alienation that runs throughout the album. 'I Can't Feel' sounds like serial copulation carried out in in a bid to feel something, anything, and as the album progresses the it feels increasingly like a commentary on the instant-gratification-based but veil-thin nature of modern society.

Album closer 'Gem' really nails it, revealing Dear's apparent confusion and isolation. Over a ballad, the vocals are a modest and understated cry for help and attention:

All of my sad songs can't make you change,

They'll just keep pushing you further away.

One of your great regrets will be staying in place,

I can't hold you back from your dreams.

When you figure out what's real I'll be standing here,

A little bit older but forgiving as the night of the day.

In today's modern world it's difficult not to feel a certain empathy with Dear's confusion. Black City not only builds on what Asa Breed achieved - it establishes Dear as a song writer up there with some of the best. This is music to make you dance, think and feel.

BP x

Black City is out now on Ghostly International, available from Amazon.co.uk on CD, LP and MP3 [affiliate links].