Matthew Dear
Leave Luck To Heaven

By Benjamin Lehmann

Texas has been responsible for some of the most notorious antiheroes of the last century, not least our old friend George Dubya. This has lead some to believe that there may be 'something in the water' affecting the sanity of its inhabitants. In a bizarre twist of fate, the unknown toxin may also be responsible for some of the most exciting house producers to have emerged since the millennium. Brett Johnson, who is behind last year's seminal Bounce 12' (Classic) and Jeff Samuel, who has turned heads with his work on Trap-ez, both hail from the city. This latest offering from another producer of Texan origin, Matthew Dear, is further evidence that it is beginning to rank alongside Chicago and Detroit as an important source of electronic music.

Matthew Dear's first release for Spectral in 1999 was a surprising fusion of funky house and electro but even in this early work you can discern an intuitive tendency towards minimalism. In the meantime he has adopted a library of sounds better suited to his taste for sparse arrangements.

Dear is a highly skilled practitioner of loop science. On Just Us Now you can appreciate the attention to detail that has gone into building percussive and rhythmic elements around each other. For the most part he is confident enough leave his grooves intact throughout the tracks, which feels very natural. On Fex he does juggle the different layers of the music, creating interesting shifts in emphasis. At the start of the album this works brilliantly, accumulating momentum quickly and with great style. On other tracks like The Crush there are moments when you feel that he could let his beats run in the style of Richie Hawtin or Moodyman. Not that he is trying to compose an album of mixing tools and locked-grooves. Tracks like Dog Days, perhaps the most successful on the album, demonstrate his talent for writing songs in the traditional sense. The vocals combine a pop delivery and tone with enigmatic refrains about stories and relationships, 'The reason for the story is to give away your last chance'. Once you start to listen to the lyrics you realise that they are not the standard drug-induced rambling we have come to expect from electronic producers. They have interest and depth, and set against the arpish synth riff, you could almost be listening to The Strokes on one of their more electro excursions.

The most surprising aspect of Leave Luck To Heaven is the reflective quality of certain tracks, which will guarantee it repeated listens. Aside from the standout examples of Dear's style, there are hidden gems such as But For You and It's Over Now which show how much love and emotion he has poured into it. At times the music is introspective, and the 'black on black' sleeve is a little gothic for my liking, but it will be fascinating to watch the rise of this young producer.
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