Matthew Dear - Beams (Ghostly)

Well over a decade since his first single 'Hands Up For Detroit' hit the shelves, Matthew Dear has finally found time to release his fifth album, Beams, amidst a myriad of side projects and extra-curricular work. The NYC-based electro-popstar has never been shy about his 80s new wave and glam influences – naming Brian Eno, Talking Heads and David Bowie amongst the most prominent – and these muses clearly bleed through into his own work. His voice chillingly echoes the Thin White Duke, and the throbbing electropop – largely influenced by Dear's time in the Detroit techno scene – feels reminiscent of the kind of music you'd expect to hear in an 80s nightclub toilet cubicle while bumping lines off a cistern. It's dark, a bit spacey, but retains a solid handful of pop conventions to stop the noises floundering in their own artsiness.

Released Sep 3rd, 2012 via Ghostly / By Larry Day
Matthew Dear - Beams (Ghostly) Opener and lead single 'Her Fantasy' is a trance-infused expanse of gothic techno and a cosmic hurdy-gurdy, kind of like if Robert Smith was a DJ at underground raves in the 90s. It's got an overwhelming sense of euphoria, and though still features the gothic undertones lurking just beneath the surface, there's a definite wide-eyed optimism penetrating the gloom. 'Earthforms' is home to a fantastic bass motif, playing ad infinitum in the forefront of the track, providing a very hooky melody and a moody rhythm from which sparse guitar creeps over. It's dancefloor ready, and much rockier than Dear's general sounds, but this deviation from the norm serves only to bolster Dear's repertoire and prove that he is not a one trick pony.

Recorded at the maestros’ own home studio and mixed at Rare Book Room studios, Beams is of a sunnier disposition than 2010s Black City. The glam-rock has burrowed its way into Dear's palette – not the garish costumes, but in the swaggering cocksure bass and avante-garde synth experimentations. There's a more grounded feel to the album, provided by the use of 'real' instruments – guitars, basses and drum kits – squirming alongside the more familiar sampled bleeps and electronic bloops. Though it all sounds quite charming, Dear has unleashed some of his most personal lyrics, which gives the whole LP a strutting confidence and a passionate depth.

'Overtime' is almost mechanical, leaning more heavily on Dear's electronic work with a funky, cyclic bassline, but also featuring a spotlit guitar to crowbar in Dear's newfound sounds. The occasional chirrups from Dear's six-string are frantic, adding to a real pulling-your-hair-out panic, which the track conveys. Penultimate effort 'Shake Me' bubbles with vacuous synth work and live keys, creating a sound that's almost like if Elbow went electronica. It's definitely big, brooding but ultimately uplifting, and stands out an obvious highlight on the record.

Beams is a more human progression from his previous works. There are signs that it's definitely man-made, but still the beautifully crafted synthpop we've all come to know and love from Dear. Hope is a persevering theme throughout the music, be it in the revealing lyrics or the grinning sonic expansions, and though this sounds more 80s than the 80s, it still has an incredibly modern feel to it. There are plenty of tracks that are single-worthy, and the record as a whole is a strong, cohesive advancement, showcasing Dear's tried-and-tested sound and adding just enough of the new to keep us salivating.