Review: Matrixxman – Homesick (Ghostly International)

Matrixxman has been flying high on acclaim over the last couple of years, but I’ve remained a little unsure exactly who he is in a musical sense. Dirty squirty acid, reams of deep, classic feeling house and smooth not-quite techno have all found places on his records, all coloured by a slickness and crisp production aesthetic that occasionally seems to sand off the rougher edges. In some ways he reminds me of Palms Trax, another artist of undeniable talent who seems to delve deep into seams of older material for inspiration only to return to the surface and wash a little too much of the muck off. I like the muck. It’s what good things grow out of.

Homesick, Matrixxman’s first album, hits all of those previously mentioned bases along its 12 tracks – for the most part. It’s noticeable that it tends to shy away from the squelching acidic brilliance of his Stuxnet release on Spectral Sounds, and tames the similar tones here down into more polite beasts, nor does he quite hit the same heights of sultry, loose limbed funk as he did on his Dekmantel record from last year, which is a bit of a shame because it seemed to show a side of his work that was verging on becoming something with an ear for experimental textures and the way they complimented a more conventional take on house.

Still, it’s a big album and there is a lot that is very likeable. As a sampler of where he’s been, where he’s at now and where he might go in the future it’s probably a better marker than either of the above examples. It also brings together those disparate strands of taste quite well into a considered, complete and fairly rounded whole which gives the album a common purpose. The overriding sense is of a record that gives room for the big tunes to really roll. There isn’t much here that is going to be described as experimental – Thick beats, tight motifs and melodies that are both airy and moody are all given time under the room one spotlights. Tunes like Augmented or Network Failure bristle with a confidence and sense of purpose and liberal feeling of deep, prime time movement tied into their economic emotional weight.

The best moments, like the refined Model 500 swing of Hit Me Up (with Vin Sol) or Red Light District’s chilled Electroid grooves open the music up, cuts down on the moodiness and add a funk and playfulness that expands vistas and allow a little light in. Red Light District, in particular, shines under the interplay between stabs, squirts and wiry pads.

In fact, the album feels a little like a seesaw between the moments of denser sound, all heaving beats and rigid progressions, and the more wilfully wild. The exception is possibly Switchblade where a perfect storm of thunderous toms and drizzling percussion lays the groundwork for a deliciously sharp synth to cut right to the heart of the tune. It bangs in a self assured and genuine way; a serious tune but one that loses itself in the moment.

It’s not a bad album, but its one that could have done with a little less focus on thick, well polished route one techno because it shines in its more wistful moments. And Homesick could have done with more of them, perhaps at the expense of a couple of the ambient interludes which are scattered throughout. As I said, it’s a big record, but it’s one that comes to life when the smaller moments are allowed room to work their undoubted magic.

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