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Matthew Dear is a shapeshifter, oscillating seamlessly between DJ, dance-music producer, and experimental pop auteur. He is a founding artist on both Ghostly International and its dancefloor offshoot, Spectral Sound. He writes, produces, and mixes all of his work. He straddles multiple musical worlds and belongs to none, now nearly 20 years into his kaleidoscopic career, with five albums and two dozen EPs plus millions of miles in the rearview of his biography.

Bunny is the name of Matthew Dear’s fifth album. His first since 2012, it bounces into plain sight preceded by two slyly different singles in 2017: the moody, urgent "Modafinil Blues” and the buoyant, blithe, Tegan and Sara-featuring “Bad Ones.” Bunny follows both modes, among others, parading down a rabbit hole of unhinged phrasings, dreams, and interludes. It saunters in the shadows; it stands brightly in the moonlight. Bunny is a dual vision of avant-pop; an artistic reckoning from a 21st-century polymath; persona splintered, paradox paraphrased, a riddle rendered.


FORMAT INFORMATION

2xColoured LP Info: Very limited white splatter vinyl.

LP includes MP3 Download Code.

On respective edges of America - Oregon and Maine - Keith Kenniff records quiet music at night. For over a decade, such has been the mode - nocturnal, unrushed, using the same mini-cassette recorder, 'a lovely little imperfect way to treat sounds' - for one of the country’s most understated composers. Kenniff has housed dozens of ambient releases under the name Helios since 2004, alongside post-classical output as Goldmund, shoegaze pop with his wife Hollie as Mint Julep, and commissions for film and television. It is a reliably transportive body of work that's earned Kenniff a cult following, and a genuine modesty that’s kept him on the fringes, right where he prefers, in the dark.

"Veriditas", the sixth Helios full-length, shares its name with twelfth-century philosopher Hildegard von Bingen's notion of 'the greening power of the divine,' the term derived from the union of two Latin words: green and truth. Bingen saw the abundance of the earth as vitality to be cultivated, interconnected with the body and spirit. Take the concept in concert with "Veriditas"' vistas of sound, gazing beyond the tree-lined wonder on its artwork, and we undoubtedly recognize the album's rooting. Kenniff elaborates, 'While I’m not a very spiritual person as it relates to a religious belief, I do feel an overwhelming connection between the aesthetics I find pleasing in my experience of nature and my experience of writing music.'

"Veriditas" introduces unusual shapes and landscapes to the Helios catalog. Whereas past songs have followed traditional structures - discernible bell curves with beginnings, arcs, and ends - the focus here is texture and harmony. Synth-tones radiate and hum as vignettes, often crisp and cloudless, other times smeared to a queasy Boards of Canada-like unease. The latter burbles below the last moments of "Eventually" and looms over the opener "Seeming" like darkness inching across a forest. Tracks cease at will. "Seeming" fades just after a sliver of light cuts through the mossy pillars. "Latest Lost" mists for just one minute. "Row The Tide" for two, hovering like a helium balloon lost to the horizon. "Even Today" hangs above the snowcaps, suspended in an upper arboreal sequence, as shimmering surges of static trace the treetops below.

Unlike past Helios work, there is no percussion. The one straightforward use of guitar appears on the ambling "Upward Beside The Gale," strummed solemnly as if over end credits, watching the greenery lapse to grey in the twilight. In the second half of “Dreams,” crystalline piano chords converse with washes of orchestral notes and deep drone, advancing towards temporal clarity, a lookout point, that once presented evaporates. Kenniff continues to find a soothing and centering quality in his craft. Aligned with Hildegard von Bingen’s philosophy, Kenniff looks towards sound, like many do to nature, for momentary vigor, for elemental and nourishing prolificacy. Here, in pursuit of viriditas, with precise textures and harmonies, he humbly extends that verdant expression outward, wide and pliable.


Dabrye

One / Three

    It was chance that brought about the release of One/Three, Dabrye’s debut album. Early demos were tucked on the B side of a cassette Tadd Mullinix passed to Sam Valenti in 2000 while working at the Dubplate Pressure record shop in Ann Arbor. Mullinix had spent the late ’90s producing jungle, techno, house, hip-hop and more using the All Sound Tracker software as a primary instrument. Each style pulled from a similar sound palette as Mullinix used limitations to define the contours of di erent musical personalities. Dabrye was his hip-hop wildstyle, a captivating collage of sparse instrumentals inspired by the laid back vibes of midwestern hip-hop and east coast boom bap, the futuristic funk of Umma-era Jay Dee, and the calculated subtlety of Detroit dance music. Released in 2001 as the first in an intended trilogy, One/Three announced Dabrye’s arrival with an unavoidable contribution to Detroit hip-hop. Ghostly International is reissuing the album in 2017 for the first time, including a long overdue vinyl edition.

    On its release One/Three was the rare album that appealed to both fans of Slum Village’s smooth yet rugged hip-hop and enthusiasts of the distinct American IDM released by labels like Schematic. Over the following decade, the inadvertent demo submission turned into a body of work that placed Dabrye alongside innovators such as Prefuse 73 amid the cannon of a new generation of producers. Today, One/Three remains a concise and intriguing study in instrumental hip-hop that helps join the dots between J Dilla and Flying Lotus.

    One/Three is a record that says much with little. There are no obvious hip-hop tropes. Instead Mullinix captures the ingenious minimalism of ’90s hip-hop instrumentals to build tracks both supple and hard, joyous and melancholy, full of sharply angled rhythms and warm rubbery basslines: ‘The Lish’ throws a sickly sweet saxophone against digitally fragmented melodies; ‘How Many Times (with this)’ draws you in with an irresistible, clipped guitar groove; the rhythmic stutter of ’Smoking The Edge’ makes your head spin with pleasure. Playing with his inspirations, Mullinix injects omitted downbeats for imagined rhymes and repurposes the intricacy of ragga jungle for breakdowns.

    But what really defines One/Three is the rhythmic sensibility and metric modulation of Detroit’s school of hip-hop production, which Mullinix was a fervent student of. The beats feel like they’re constantly escaping a rigid tempo grid even though they are, in fact, pretty tight. “A lot of it is nuance,” Mullinix explains. “I’ve been known to say that I’m not impressed by spectacle. I think that nuance is what really captivates people.”

    Since Scott Hansen's Tycho project's inception in 2004 with the release of 'Sunrise Projector' (later renamed 'Past Is Prologue' for it's reissues in 2006 and 2010), they have undertaken a wide range of melodic electronic miscellany. Centred around the trio of albums, 'Dive' 'Awake' and onto his latest offering, 'Epoch'. 

    Though they all mine the seam of anthemic electronic music, they have leant in slightly differing directions with regards their emotional pacing and melodic makeup. 'Dive' was very much a morning album, slowly growing into a breathing and optomistic mass through woozy synths and reticent percussion, forming themes through repetition and infinitesimal variations. 'Awake' was much more as the title suggests, a pinnacle of alertness, an effervescent and resplendent rising from the woozy haze of the first. 

    And onto Epoch. A culmination and combination of the previous two iterations, stylistically, and theoretically. 

    Opener 'Division' begins with a hazy crushed electric piano, and growing fade before cutting brutally into galloping toms, and that trademark Tycho bass sound. Not two minutes in and it becomes instantly recognisable, with sliding square wave synths swooning backwards and forwards along with the kinetic rhytmic backdrop. 'Horizon' has throbbing cosmic chord stabs and sidechained crisp saturated drum kit. 

    Pieces like 'Reciever' really move the posts of what has come before, embracing the dusky atmospheres of 'Dive' but with much more of a late-night feel, jazzy rhodes trills and throbbing ambience really lending their mystique before being given a firm but subtle bolstering by some uncharacteristically distant drums and shakers dragging the pace along. 

    Move on further and 'Division' is a complex and fascinating melting pot of instrumental rock, driving electronica and ambience, being based much more heavily upon guitars and rhythm before bringing in the synths in a stop-start cut-up. A brilliantly varied but completely natural progression, made all the more hard-hitting by the lack of crossovers, opting instead for a complete about-turn on more than one occasion. 

    'Epoch' is less about ambience setting the scene than on previous offerings, and much more based on Hansen's mastery of rhythmic foundations and celever melodic arrangement. Moreso than anything else Tycho have done, this is a bracing and rewarding journey, never jarring, but constantly evolving. A masterful culmination of concept and execution, and most of all a great listen. 

    STAFF COMMENTS

    Barry says: Having been a fan of Tycho's work for some time now, I was wondering how this would come out, and I couldn't be any happier. A brilliant fusion of the unbelievable skill of the previous two albums, and a brilliantly executed continuation and expanding of the themes found on both. Darker, moodier and more uplifting and euphoric at the flick of a switch. Brilliant.


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