Review: Matthew Dear

On his third LP, techno vet Dear envisions a bleakly beautiful future.

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5

Is Matthew Dear turning into America's version of Berlin-era David Bowie? He's already displayed an affinity for the artist's late-'70s output, covering Low's "Sound and Vision" for 2008's Life Beyond Mars tribute album and managing to convey the original's odd fusion of bleakness and hazy, humane happiness. (In that respect, it had something in common—at least conceptually—with much of Dear's techno-oriented work under the Audion moniker.) It seems as though that experience set loose Dear's inner Bowie, as Dear's third album under his own name features the same atmospheric keys, yearning melodies, oblique lyrics and slight sense of dread that the Thin White Duke had down cold. And Dear's voice—it's eerily reminiscent of the deadpan lower register that Bowie favored at the time.

But while Bowie spent his Berlin years finding ways to incorporate the icy futurism of Kraftwerk and production deity Conny Plank into a pop-song setting, Dear's more interested in dragging pop into a place beyond futurism—namely, the dystopian metropolis of the album's title. "Alter genetics / To make my body glow / I need more surgery / There's so much more to know," Dear croons on "More Surgery," while synths churn out an ominously bubbling backdrop. Elsewhere, the krautrock-tinged march tune "Monkey" finds Dear intoning something about becoming a simian (perhaps those genetic experiments backfired), while "I Can't Feel" is strutting electro laced with lithium. Luckily, Dear's smart enough to break up the shadows with a touch of lightness, particularly on the nine-minute album centerpiece, "Little People (Black City)." Thanks to a throbbing pulse and soaring keyboard lines, it's strangely reminiscent of—you guessed it—Bowie's "Sound and Vision."

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