Matthew Dear live @ the Empty Bottle

It’s probably rash of me to make a judgment like this; but even without hearing Asa Breed, Matthew Dear’s forthcoming album on Ghostly International, as a finished product, I’m ready to give it the crown of crossover album of the year. Last night Matthew Dear’s Big Hands (aka Dear with a drummer and bassist) made its second and final “preview” live PA in Chicago (Detroit being the first). Moments after he cued up the first beat in their set, I’d forgotten all about the unusually long wait before the first act, the high-school talent show abomination that was The Flesh, and the dj duo who spun nothing but crackling 80s pop tunes and looked uncannily like the villains of Superman 2.

As his Ableton-aided laptop cranked out dense beat kernels, Dear, whose DJ sets have found him rather stoic, stepped right into the role of frontman. He looked loose and energized as he swung his hands, threw down some claps and loosed his baritone bellow upon the crowd. His vocals called to mind a blend of David Gahan, Alan Vega of Suicide (the “ow!” shouts didn’t hurt) and Ian Curtis, quickly switching between foreboding and introspective delivery styles. Though the base beats were innately tied to techno, the full band sound also took cues from the aforementioned singers’ groups. Layered vocals and tenebrous synths were pushed to their greatest immediacy by the cracking percussion and fat bass tone, Dear sauntering at the front, curled locks trembling from the vibrations and gyrations. The tunes alternated between hypnotically danceable and firmly planted full-on melancholic meditations with resonating pulses felt in listeners’ jugulars. I could see why he’s cited David Byrne and Brian Eno’s samplepiece My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts as an inspiration. Everything about this new period in Matthew Dear’s career seems fully realized: Not one note/tune sounded out of place or still needing practice (though the drummer didn’t seem to remember any of the words), his presentation of Asa Breed material was as precisely entertaining as a Booka Shade set, even the album cover has me wowed. I’ve not been this excited for a record release in quite some time. Mark June 6th on your calendars now.

My friends over at Random Circuits have the Four Tet remix of Dear’s new single posted — a must hear. More of my pictures from the show are available here. And if somehow you’ve managed to not hear “Deserter,” do yourself a favor and stream it here.


6 comments so far

  1. joe on

    Excellent write! up i cant wait to see him live.

  2. mohson_iqbal on

    Touche…..on a fine bit of Sonar gossip, the bar will be raised,
    im getting into this!!!!!

    asta la yago


  3. travis on

    great review Steve. I completely agree, this will be *the* crossover record of the year. Can’t wait ..

  4. kenan on

    nice review, made me feel even worse for missing it. any word on tour dates for the release?

  5. benkirwan on

    i thought i might have been stretching it when i compared his vocals to Ian Curtis, Cool that you heard that too.

  6. […] my “throwing down the gauntlet” post decrying the state of mp3-posting blogs, and my review of one of Matthew Dear’s first live performances with a band (in America, at […]

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