With electronic music being an ever-expanding and cluttered realm at the best of times, it can be hard for the old guard to truly stand out amongst the assembled almost-rans. However, Matthew Dear is a man who inhabits a rarefied corner, an artist whose expressionism and ambition know no bounds. Having created a murky dystopian metropolis on 2010′s breakthrough album Black City, Dear arrived earlier in 2012 with the Headcage EP – an amphibiously drenched disco collection guest-starring Johnny Pierce of the Drums on one track. Headcage picked up where Black City left off and shakes its influence enough to suggest where he might be headed next…or maybe not.
Beams is a stark contrast to its predecessors – beginning with the tropically tinged ‘Her Fantasy’, Dear seems pensive in his lyrics, highlighted by his typically mutant and deadpan vocals. What makes the track worthy of heavy rotation is its polarity between Dear’s inflexion and the euphoria of the instruments – you often worry that the album may have peaked too early. It is a monumental opener which morphs into the bass-driven ‘Earthforms’ which has Dear breathing sinister lyrics (‘always the silent one, who creeps up from behind’) through a jam somewhere between TV On The Radio and Suicide. The urgency of the opening tracks are insistent and vibrant and the confidence of his creation is no better exemplified than ‘Fighting Is Futile’ – a cohesion of repetition, funk and melodic vocals, with a shade of disco-Bowie – the early tracks embody everything about NYC cool.
Beams’ mid-section sails into the lugubrious side of Dear – the decadent disco is replaced with more aurally delicate soundscapes, and the continuity of the vocal delivery forms a comfortable tightrope for Dear to display his auteurist travels. Rather than create a disparity between two sides of a record, it creates a reference point for the plethora of different sounds to build around. ‘Get The Rhyme Right’ centres itself on simplicity whilst evoking DFA Records’ hallmarks of the early millennium. ‘Ahead of Myself’ is the result of a gospel or pure shore influence and perhaps the most soulful track on Beams. However, just as the album seems serene, the ghost of Beams’ predecessor haunts the musical utopia- ‘I claimed I was capable of freezing time – well, I lied. How could you trust someone as suspicious as me, when you knew I would turn you in eventually’ broods Dear on ‘Shake Me’. It somewhat disturbs the balance of the album, nonetheless, its ambience is as tactile and pleasurable as the rest.
Dear’s creative voice is distinct enough to shine through all kinds of instruments and interference. His singularity and vision in Beams make it such an uncompromising, insistent and complete album. It is arguably his most accomplished yet. The warmth that Dear generates within the album greets you like an old friend – one that you have not seen for a while, who reacquaints himself with an unconditional familiarity that ensures you will spend a lifetime with him. Dear is one of the few artists alive that cannot be pinned down or categorised. He is truly an auteur of modern music – perhaps James Murphy is his only realistic contemporary, but with LCD Soundsystem now disbanded, it’s arguably Dear’s opportunity to carry on New York’s musical hybridity.Dear stays ahead of the game by adhering exclusively to his own rules.