Listen to Matrixxman’s debut album, Homesick.
Since the dissolution of 5kinAndBone5 a few years back, Charles “Matrixxman” Duff has released a steady stream of single and EPs for the likes of Unknown to the Unknown, Icee Hot, Spectral Sound, and Soo Wavey, the label he co-runs with Vin Sol. This week, he’ll cap that off with the release of his debut album, Homesick, via Ghostly International (which you can stream now, below).
Musically, Homesick follows the thrust of Matrixxman’s recent output: Detroit techno with touches of electro and industrial, along with ambient pieces that are better suited to an LP than an EP. “It’s a totally different approach,” he explains via Skype. “With singles and EPs, you’re definitely concerned with capturing attention briefly, with more of a shock and awe approach. With the album, you get to delve into more emotional territory.”
That territory is exemplified by ‘Annika’s Theme’, a very human moment that comes towards the end of the album; Duff tried to and succeeds at capturing a bittersweet sentiment, the dichotomy of human and machine. It’s a mode that most of his listeners will probably not be expecting — and that’s by design. “Artists will do something, get recognition for it, and that will become the status quo that they’re expected to do over and over again,” he says. “My inherent, knee-jerk reaction when people say “oh, Matrixxman is well-known for doing percussive tracks,” is to tell them to fuck off and do melodic tracks.”
“My whole approach is distinctly subversive at its core.”Matrixxman
That transgressive spirit is behind all of his work. “The whole reason I’m doing an artistic pursuit is so I can do what the fuck I want to do,” he says. “I’m hellbent on eschewing expectation where possible. My whole approach is distinctly subversive at its core. Too many people get comfortable in their safe zones. And while I’m getting comfortable settling into the confines of techno, I’m still trying to fuck it up as much as possible.”
In kind, Homesick is very much a techno record, albeit one where Duff pushes against the boundaries of the form. There are nods to Lovecraft’s Necronomicon and Detroit’s already-dystopian Packard Plant as he crossbreeds sci-fi and fantasy. “What if in some alternate universe the Packard Plant was still alive and thriving, and in a couple hundred years from now, what would that look like?” he wonders aloud when asked about ‘Packard Plant’. “There’s an element of visualization, of sketching out the virtual vibes that I had in my head for each particular scene.”
Together, those scenes present a picture of “off-world homesickness” alluded to by the title: a future of intergalactic travel, artificial intelligence and the technological singularity, the moment when AI surpasses human intelligence. While he’s happy to talk techno, these topics are what gets Duff most excited.
“Social stratification is spiraling out of control.”Matrixxman
“It’s easy to write off a lot of this stuff as fictitious and escapist, but a lot of issues and recurring themes I’m dealing with are crucial matters that could have irrevocable outcomes for the fate of humanity,” he says. “A lot of the stuff is not just far-out sci-fi adventures, but there are brutally practical applications, especially with regards to artificial intelligence and the onset of the singularity.”
“If the singularity is only 30 years away — barring some cataclysmic event that destroys the planet — we’re actually going to witness some incredibly wild shit unfold. As humans, we have this weird tendency to obsess about post-apocalyptic scenarios, but arguably, a lot of that stuff is already upon us,” he explains.
Press materials reference “incredible opulence juxtaposed with abject poverty,” which seems to already describe his San Francisco home. “Social stratification is spiraling out of control. A city that has historically been a haven for freaks, weirdos and artists – that culture is not thriving to the extent that it once was. The class divide has widened and the gap is more prevalent. One could say the dystopia is well on its way, if not already here.”
“When the singularity hits, all that stuff melts away.”Matrixxman
But while many fear the singularity, Duff is hopeful. “The cool thing about the singularity is that it’s going to totally fuck shit up in the most beautiful sense possible. When everyone has access to a cornucopia machine or some sort of nano-assembler, all bets are off. The whole idea of money, currency as it is is bullshit — when the singularity hits, all that stuff melts away.”
“[Famed futurist Ray Kurzweil] is hellbent on uploading consciousness, and that’s fine and dandy, but that’s just one facet of everything that’s going to go down,” he continues. “That will be great when we can preserve ourselves and be immortal, virtually. But I’m very much intrigued by the political and socio-economic ramifications, because things are kinda fucked right now.”
“The current model is not working: capitalism is fundamentally flawed. Resources are disproportionately allocated to the upper echelons of society, and technology might be the only saving grace. As it stands, without a radical paradigm shift, I don’t see how we can extricate ourselves from the current predicament,” he explains. “I’m very adamant about being a spokesperson for these paradigm shifts. Granted, I’m not going to be the first person to design a quantum supercomputer or a virtual simulation of the brain, but I’m eager to be fueling the soundtrack and providing creative fodder as I express my ideas on the matter.”