Available on: R&S LP
Galaxy Garden, Matt Cuter’s fourth album as Lone, opens with ‘New Colour’, a track the producer says was the starting point and catalyst for everything that follows it. As a typically complex lead melody winds around shuffling, syncopated, woody percussion, a listener can get the sense of familiar trademarks being applied to new areas of focus in instrumentation and rhythm. Indeed, as Galaxy Garden progresses there are only fleeting moments of reference to Lone’s previous preoccupations in classic house and hip-hop; instead the focus is almost solely on the unique, naïve aesthetic that he applied to them.
There is a problem, however, in that this aesthetic genuinely seems to work best when applied to such existing signifiers. Lone’s intricate melodies translated well to hardcore stabs, for instance, and his very individual style of harmony creates an immersive quality to house, especially when sidechained to familiar, super-compressed drum machines.
Yet when cut free of familiar reference it seems this musical language doesn’t have much strength, at least not yet. Within Galaxy Garden ‘New Colour’, ‘The Animal Pattern’, ‘Crystal Caverns 1991′ and ‘Earth’s Lungs’ are strong showings in terms of their arrangements, but in all honesty none are too memorable. This is even more so the case for the really quite dull ‘Cthulhu’ and ‘Raindance’ – the latter, while having probably the catchiest riff of the album, does little of note with it.
In places the album can also simply be too polite. ‘As A Child’ is a collaboration with Machinedrum at his current footwork pace, and as a warm rush of synth flute, bongo and snare come together it’s as sweet as Machinedrum’s own ‘Flycatcha’. However, unexpectedly, dirgey, indie-styled vocals and acoustic guitar are added to the mix, and ultimately let it down. ‘Spirals’, with vocals from Anneka, is a pop-house-ish cut with a ‘Liberian Girl’ aesthetic to its Eighties keys. Unfortunately it feels out of place; a track that should perhaps be on Anneka’s album rather Lone’s.
Samplers playing overtly re-pitched blocks of audio have featured heavily in Lone’s previous productions, but Galaxy Garden’s instrumentation is largely synthesizers and keys. This lends the record a much cleaner sound than the Echolocations EP or Emerald Fantasy Tracks releases, and whether this is deemed a good progression will be down to personal preference. It is, however, a shame to lose the warmth that came with this drastic stretching and compressing of samples’ frequencies. Happily, ‘Lying In The Reeds’ and ‘Dream Girl/Sky Surfer’ do retain something of this trademark haze, which is possibly why they are the stand-out tracks.
It’s a difficult balance to strike when an artist seeks to progress stylistically; naturally you can’t please everyone all of the time and sticking to a formula is not always conducive to great results. Galaxy Garden is ambitious, which is to be lauded, and Cutler also has a reassuringly realistic outlook when saying that he is still “chipping away at a big idea”. This is very evident, and being well-produced it will receive its dues, while almost certainly dividing existing Lone fans.