Matthew Dear's EP, Headcage, stands as a testament to the New Yorker's work as a relentless songwriter, producer and in a new light, collaborator. Working with other producers and vocalists as well as mixing/tracking at Nicolas Vernhes' famed Rare Book Room studio has lent Headcage an openness and poise to the four songs presented here.
Our last look at Matthew Dear's creative cycle was the fathoms-deep starkness of his 2010 album, Black City. A triumph of slowly imploding romanticism, Black City was ultimately just another step in Dear's creative evolution from his breakthrough Asa Breed (2007) and his Detroit-meets-Berlin minimal techno of Leave Luck to Heaven (2003). The vision found in this EP is a likely harbinger for Dear's full-length, Beams (coming in 2012).
"Headcage" leads with a dense, mutating cluster of breaths, whispers and assorted technicolor sounds until it coalesces into a hearty chug. The song gets an added aural heft from co-producers Van Rivers and The Subliminal Kid, a Swedish partnership notable for work on albums like Blonde Redhead's Penny Sparkle, Glasser's Ring and Fever Ray's self-titled record. The unabashed melodic thrust of the lead vocals by Jonny Pierce (of Brooklyn outfit The Drums) makes "In the Middle (I Met You There)" one of Dear's most perfect—and unique—pop creations. The first duet in Dear's decade-long career, the dopamine flies when Dear's baritone kicks in. "Street Song" forgoes percussion and propulsion for a drifting, intoxicated reverie of an exotic melodic phrase, bubbling bass and Dear's falsetto. Something perhaps culled from a late night reverie heard from a window, or an imagined city long gone. "Around a Fountain" offers a dubby low end and claustrophobic atmosphere, but Dear's voice leavens the darkness, rounding out the EP with hymn-like whisper.