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Matthew E. White - K Bay Music Album Reviews

Matthew E. White - K Bay Music Album Reviews
Filled with delightful moments of sound-craft, the third solo album from the Spacebomb auteur places him at the center of a vast musical cosmology.

Matthew E. White luxuriates in the sounds and styles of American popular music from the 1960s and ‘70s while lightly dodging over the pitfalls of pastiche: lifeless citations or scolding subtext. His leaping insight saves his music from the former, his embrace of modernity from the latter. (His exploratory jazz background helps, too.) His music invites scrutiny, but his treatment of his touchstones, which span Stax soul and Brill Building pop, is too motley for footnotes to contain. And anyway, that’s the sort of thing you do when you’re bored. White is never boring, and sooner than later, some moment of delightful sound-craft will make you give up the crate-digging and give in to the wild ride.

These moments come early and often on K Bay, White’s third album as a bandleader. Perhaps he’ll catch your attention when the peppy yeah-yeah-yeah sample drops into the thrumming monochrome rock of “Nested” with a kind of fated silliness. And then there’s the metrically mad transition that comes one minute into “Let’s Ball,” which is like a satin-lined late-‘90s rap beat infused with D.C. go-go and a soupçon of Out Hud. In the astonishing “Take Your Time (And Find That Orange to Squeeze),” after what sounds like James Blake twisting knobs behind a Burt Bacharach prelude, a hyperreal whorl of percussion opens a portal into a realm of heavy-lidded R&B. The song morphs so cunningly that it makes radio-station bumper music seem like a viable art form unto itself.

K Bay reunites White with many of the textures from his previous release, a collaboration with Lonnie Holley. A kaleidoscopic palette of strings, winds, harp, xylophone, electric piano, and analog synthesizer leaves no hue unshaded. White’s slightly louche vocal style resembles Matthew Dear, or even, when backed by the mottled cool jazz of “Fell Like an Ax,” of the usually incomparable King Krule. White’s newfound boldness as a singer is but one way that K Bay diverges from his prior records, where his reverence for his musical heroes was such that sometimes you could barely hear him. Compared to his lambent debut, Big Inner, which was softened by gospel and country strains, the grooves are heavy, decked out in deep-pocket basses and agile palm-muted guitars. They also pry White’s capacious purview even wider, making inroads into new-wave pop (The Cars loom especially large), no-wave dance-punk, and krautrock.

Though almost every song is captivating in its own way, one commands special attention. On a record otherwise pervaded by vague musings on personal matters, “Only in America/When the Curtains of the Night Are Peeled Back” is White’s attempt to address racial injustice. It’s a beautiful, complicated song that rotates on at least two axes, as chamber-pop melts into jazz and Randy Newman shades into Bon Iver. White’s perspective on the subject might evoke different responses in different listeners, or in the same listener at different times. For me, the bridge between his windy verses and the invocations of names like Philando Castile is too far to bear the moral weight. The song shows White to be a sensitive Virginian, but cropping up on this apolitical record, it comes across as thunder borrowed rather than earned.

“Only in America” arrives a little more than halfway through K Bay, and while the album swiftly corrects course, it never again quite reaches the heights of the first half. But even the slighter tracks would be standouts on a lesser record. If White’s gambits start to repeat, they do so in high style with “Never Had It Better,” a big-water wave of eddying piano and surging strings, and the drag-racing beach-jazz of “Judy.” The sound of K Bay is so good—so plump, so crisp, so tapered and whooshed—that White can seem like a studio hermit whose talent keeps thwarting his solitude. Spacebomb, the label and studio he operates with vintage gear and house musicians, became a lightning rod over the past decade, and eventually, he had to build a second studio to get away from it all. That home studio, Kensington Bay, has given both life and a name to this record: It illustrates how White thrives at the center of his own musical cosmology.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Matthew E. White - K Bay Music Album Reviews Matthew E. White - K Bay Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Wednesday, September 22, 2021 Rating: 5

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