Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Matty ‎– Déjàvu (2018)

Genre: Pop
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Matty Unlimited

1.   Embarrassed
2.   Verocai
3.   How Can He Be
4.   I'll Gladly Place Myself Below You
5.   Clear
6.   Polished
7.   Nothing, Yet
8.   Butter
9.   Déjàvu

Bass – Chester Hansen
Drums – Alex Sowinski
Saxophone – Leland Whitty
Instrumentation By, Backing Vocals – Kaan Gunesberk
Written By, Mixed By, Performer, Engineer, Co-producer – Matty

Matty Tavares got burned out. The keyboardist’s band, Toronto jazz combo BADBADNOTGOOD, had achieved a remarkable degree of success collaborating with A-list rappers like Ghostface, Tyler, the Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, and Kendrick Lamar. That increased profile led to touring—which, for Tavares, soon led to anxiety and depression. He became frustrated with the band, experienced what he has called a “mental breakdown,” and moved in with his parents. While living with them, Tavares returned to making the psychedelic soft rock that he’d dabbled in since he was 16 years old, working with a close friend, producer and ubiquitous sample source Frank Dukes.

It was a therapeutic period for Tavares, who has since rejoined BBNG, but also a productive one. The result is Déjàvu, a breezy, pleasant nine-song record whose parkland harmonies and AM-radio fuzziness recall the gentle, mid-period work of Woods and Ariel Pink. Its music is simple, soothing, and often lovely, betraying little of the friction that generally accompanies a period of self-examination like the one Tavares underwent. But the lyrics are so nakedly vulnerable that they can feel, paradoxically, as if they’re not revealing much at all. Often, instead of stories or scenarios, Tavares presents emotions so undistilled that they can be easier to ignore than to engage with.

As a member of BBNG, the keyboardist contributes to a group that has long since set genre orthodoxy aside. The band gained a following by covering hip-hop instrumentals and tends to shift its tone from record to record. Tavares’ versatility has been key to this evolution: Compare his anxious contributions to 2014’s IIIwith the triumphant tenor of his chords on the title track of 2016’s IV, and you’ll have a sense of how his talents help BBNG to change colors as needed. He comes across as a hugely supportive musician, so maybe it’s no wonder that he needed a break from the demanding intimacy of the group.

On Déjàvu, his generosity manifests in the music’s consistent richness. “Clear” is laden with falsetto harmonies and soft, humming keys—yet another green world shot through with sunlight. Opening track “Embarrassed” is chillwave redux, its cushiony bass and synths transporting the listener directly back to the summer of 2009. The lyrics also convey Tavares’ real-life generosity, albeit in a less compelling way, as he describes how his aversion to conflict keeps him from confronting others: “I’m embarrassed to know you at all,” he sings. “That’s why I keep the conversations small.” The disparity between the comforting tone of the music and the needling disquiet of the words makes it tempting to tune out the latter. A similar emotion suffuses “I’ll Gladly Place Myself Below You,” as Tavares describes the self-loathing that compels us to put others’ needs before our own. Although it doesn’t read as self-pitying, the song stops at acknowledging the feeling’s existence rather than examining what caused it.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the record is its lack of memorable melodies, given Tavares’ and Dukes’ respective pedigrees. There are exceptions: “How Can He Be” is an uptempo pop track with a jaunty bass anchor and Beatles-esque harmonies on the chorus, while “Nothing, Yet” is a Tame Impala-style jam that has the catchiest verses of any song on the album. But even those cuts fail to distinguish themselves beyond the visceral pleasure of the music. On “Nothing, Yet,” Tavares doesn’t seem to have worked out exactly what to do with the chorus, which makes the song’s highlights play like wasted opportunities—they’re beautiful bridges to mild disappointment.

The most damning indictment of the songwriting on Déjàvu is also the record’s most impressive offering: its closer, the title track. Although it’s an instrumental, the eight-and-a-half-minute piece has a narrative arc that the rest of the album largely lacks. With its poise, its knowing shifts in momentum, and its comfort with the longer format, it sounds a lot like BADBADNOTGOOD—and, in that sense, it makes a neat coda to Tavares’s crisis. The transition from jazz to pop may not entirely suit him, but in releasing Déjàvu, he has shared some very pretty music and made public a private project that helped him work through deeply personal issues. Most importantly, the album documents the process that led him back to the role in which he seems most at home.
Jonah Bromwich / Pitchfork

Bush Tetras ‎– Wild Things (1983)

Style: No Wave
Format: Cassette
Label: ROIR

A1.   Cowboys In Africa
A2.   Making A Mistake
A3.   Stare
A4.   Rituals
A5.   Enemies
A6.   Wild Thing
A7.   Boom
A8.   Damned
B1.   Submerging Nations
B2.   Too Many Creeps
B3.   Can't Be Funky
B4.   Cold Turkey
B5.   Voodoo
B6.   Jaws

Bass – Laura Kennedy
Drums, Vocals – Dee Pop
Guitar, Vocals, Percussion – Pat Place
Vocals, Percussion, Guitar – Cynthia Sley

Arising from the New York post-rock scene (Pat Place had been one of James White’s Blacks), the Bush Tetras attempted a synthesis of African sensibilities (as perceived by white Americans) with the modern dance to form a global tribal music. The 12-inch Rituals (produced by then-Clash drummer Topper Headon) sets songs against a funk/reggae beat with horns and punchy guitar work tossed in liberally. “Can’t Be Funky” and its doppelg„nger, “Funky Version,” are the most explicitly Third World tunes; “Cowboys in Africa” rushes along with punk intensity and “Rituals” employs a threnody pace.

The Wild Things cassette is a concert compilation of late ’82 performances in and around New York. The band is in fine ferocious form, and Cynthia Sley spits and scowls her vocals as if the songs really meant something. The material reprises most of the Tetras’ slim recorded repertoire, plus a couple of appropriately savage covers.

Better Late Than Never gathers together all of the Bush Tetras’ studio work — Rituals, two prior singles and two otherwise unreleased demos (the earlier of which finds the group pushing a funky and reasonably accomplished dance groove) — on one digitally remastered cassette. On the band’s last session (from ’83), Place and Sley are backed by a new rhythm section.

After leaving the Tetras, drummer Dee Pop and his singing wife, onetime John Cale sidewoman deerfrance, launched Floor Kiss with former 8 Eyed Spy guitarist Michael Paumgardhen and a bassist. Hampered by crude self-production, the band’s six-song 12-inch pairs simple rock-cum-power pop backing and breathy vocals in service of reasonably diverting material. A minor pleasure that might have developed into something.

The Lovelies are Sley’s quintet with guitarist Ivan Julian (ex-Voidoids), an unpleasant pairing of his common rock and her uncommon voice. On the “Thrash” side of Mad Orphan (the Mad Orphans were a Lovelies precursor), the flat, muddy production manages to hide Julian’s guitar sparks but not Sley’s artlessly abrasive singing. On the “Gash” side (what a charming title), keyboards, lower volume and more musical vocals (especially when multi-tracked) make several of the songs far more palatable.

Ivan Julian (who was briefly in Shriekback) leads the Outsets, a trio whose six-song EP is a clear and strong exercise — half funky-butt dance grooves, half slow rockers — with particularly interesting axework and a lot of spunk. The four songs produced by Garland Jeffreys aren’t brilliant, but Julian’s singing and playing provide them with a distinctive and attractive flavor.