Ten years on from ‘Suckfish’, Matthew Dear puts the celebrated Audion moniker back in album mode. What phone booths are to Clark Kent, DJ booths have the same effect here on Dear, his leaning towards alt-dance-pop now hushed amongst geometric dancefloor technicality, belying a reportedly quick turnover in execution. Dear asks the dancefloor questions, layering deep techno data that is managed as an exercise in plate spinning. Or plug-in finding, as is the case of ‘Napkin’ - demonstrations of how to bend loops into shape, designed so that dancing gives way to analysing Dear’s soft handed manipulation of hard sounds.
Anything that approaches a hook has the hold of a craggy rockface, such is the deadweight scaliness of Dear commonly using elements found just outside the industrial sphere. Those David Byrne-isms firmly rested on the back burner, ‘Alpha’ can be deemed as a mysterious listen, without a complexity of explanation – Dear displays shadiness, whether closely guarded or using flagrant barriers of self defence, and that’s the end of it.
‘There Was A Button’ has expectancy in the distance, but is happy with its bated status. On ‘Traanc’, fractals drop like Tetris blocks. ‘Bob the Builder’ briefly spirals in and out of back alleys. Undercut with funk, ‘Timewarp’ shimmies below stairs before blowing its own cover with an ear-peeling klaxon, after ‘Destroyer’ has gassed up on Underworld-esque nitros. The tangible oomph given to and expended by ‘Suppa’ and ‘Sucker’, paradoxically return the album to the shadows.
Assessing the Audion void, the ten-year gap between LPs is irrelevant as ‘Suckfish’ still sounds great as quite a prickly, sometime outright aggressive proposition. 'Alpha' divides its time between striking out, tempering aggression and giving time to think and go deeper, walking the line between something to respect and invest in. For a producer with as marked an evolution as Dear, that’s pretty clear cut.
Words: Matt Oliver
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