Is loop-based music a dying art? Not when you consistently redefine its limits, as Matthew Dear has done for about a decade now—first as a Texas-bred transplant to Detroit''s second wave of techno (represented in the early ''90s by the likes of Carl Craig and Richie Hawtin) and later as a producer whose work under the names Audion, False, and Jabberjaw has migrated smoothly between aggro-glitch, minimalist hypno-house, and other dark, experimental beat fusions.
“I think people do get confused about what my direction is,” Dear says, citing his quirky tech-pop-soul sound and hyper-processed vocal style. Black City (Ghostly International) is his latest release. “A lot of these songs were just weird experiments until I went back and started rethinking them. I''ve always done it that way. Before I had any house or techno records out, I was making cassette tapes with acoustic guitars, drum machines, and me singing. I''m not a great singer by any stretch, so I had to work with effects and layering to create my own vocal personality.”
“I Can''t Feel” (see Web Clip 1) started out in Dear''s home studio in Brooklyn with a crisp, vintage-sounding drum pattern and a stripped-down funky bass line, all of it built up and looped in Ableton Live. Dear uses Live as a complete production suite, bouncing out to Logic only when he''s ready to master. “I''ve finally started side-chaining with Live,” he adds. “It definitely helps me add some depth and dimension to the bass frequencies.”
Dear usually records his vocals in three parts: a falsetto ad lib on the first pass, followed by his normal voice, and then a pitched-down low voice once he has solidified the lyrics to the song. Then he processes vocals with an Eventide H8000; using a tuned delay on the left and right channels, he''ll subtly pitch one side up and the other one down, emulating the warble-y sound of an old AMS digital delay. “I want the vocals to sound dense and broad whenever I can,” he says.
The fusion jazz-inflected “Honey” (see Web Clip 2) lurches ahead on a dryly tracked hi-hat rhythm. Dear brings in his Electro-Harmonix Memory Man toward the tail end of the song, cycling the vocals and synth pads through varying degrees of modulating delay. “You Put a Smell on Me” opens with an arpeggiated loop from a Korg Polysix, which Dear sampled in Live, gradually introducing several more loops and creating the sensation of relentless, constant movement. By contrast, the dreamy synth washes and dry electric bass of “Shortwave” recall Warm Jets-era Eno in his majestic ambience.
“This album could have been all over the place,” Dear says, “but when [Ghostly label founder] Sam Valenti and I went through it, we just started pulling the tracks that seemed to fit. There''s definitely a groove mentality that unites it—that''s because I''m so loop-based, but I also use a certain amount of compression [with a Gates Sta-Level compressor clone and UAD Neve 1073 EQ plug-ins] to tie things together. I''m not making these albums to be played in dance clubs. I love making 12-inch house and techno, but this music is meant to fulfill another listening experience.”
Home base:Brooklyn, N.Y.
Key software: Ableton Live 8, Apple Logic Pro 9
Main gear: Korg Polysix, Electro-Harmonix Memory Man with Hazarai looping pedal, Eventide H8000