Saturday, 11 February 2012

Saltillo - Monocyte

Menton J. Matthews is one of the few artists whom, after releasing their debut LP to (what most would agree) a less than attention-seeking string of promotions, find themselves at the centre of word-of-mouth passes from both fans and critics alike. 'Ganglion', Matthews' debut album under the alias of Saltillo, was an invitingly haunting variation on orchestrated trip-hop and downtempo music that, unlike most present day releases of a similar genre, was coated in a uneasy layer of strings, beats and sampled vocals that were as uncompromisingly cheery as a post-war depression. Six years later, Saltillo returns with his second deliverance. This time, more darker and more personal in approach to the trip-hop umbrella, with 'Monocyte', a far more conceptual collective - fueled here by Matthews' multi-instrumental skills on strings, percussion and synthesizers.

'Abeo', like many other album-openers sets the scene for what's to come both in the album's sound and its subject matter. Its eerie expanse of echoing violins and heavily-stretched drones give for a dramatic pulling-in into this surreal World Matthews manifests before us. From its darkly confines, the scratching coarseness of spoken words - all drowning in effects and alteration - continue this introductory ascent (or rather descent) into Saltillo's musical environment. 'Proxy' follows in the same ambience of mournful string arrangements but this time, the beat of synth patterns and drums come into full fruition. It's here where the true panorama of the sound's deliverance comes into view. If it's not the rising of strings that expand the atmospheric vibes, then it's the on-off drops of the accompanying synths that give the track its tantalizingly inhuman toxicity.

But Matthews here decides against relying so heavily on stringed instrumentation as is the case with the next track 'If Wishes Were Catholic' which features a more heavy and more forward-thrusting beat. It's the piano instead which gives the track extra depth, accompanied by vocals reminiscent of the same passion and synchronicity you'd most likely find on BT's later catalogue. So too do the electronics and synth patterns appear in the same state of energy - here, hints at the likes of Richard D James Album's rapid, almost abstract, execution.

Whether you want to call it homage, influence or whatever, the point is irrelevant in relation to Saltillo's direction and with it, the choices he has made in amplifying this setting through his sounds. 'They All Do It The Same' though shares the same pattern as early IDM experimentation, continues this expansion of setting through the crypt of more sampled vocals and drone-like strings that keep us almost contained (attracted, too) to this ambivalently-changing scene. And this indecisiveness comes up the most in 'I Hate You', Monocyte's most upbeat, yet volatile, culmination of rhythm and composition. The track's title - featuring in frequent bursts of surreally perfected placements - comes off, in its deliverance, almost distant and withdrawn. It only increases the somewhat twisted density to this album's construction and it redefines just what level of emotive storytelling we find ourselves on. No longer is this album a directed drive as 'Ganglion' was more accustomed to, but here it feels invasive as if tapping into our heart's most darkest corners; our fears, our loathes, the tiny remnants of our young naive selves stretched to a unprecedented proportions.

Later tracks like 'Hollow', which provide more of fully instrumental approaches may not be as direct as previous tracks but still continue the album's investigative interrogation of sound and perception. Likewise 'The Locus Priory' expands upon the album's more offensive deliverance through its heavily delivered drumbeats and drowning of instrumentation that feels almost lost in the manic electronics. Electronics here, that feel as if they're taking control of the overall situation. Closer 'To Kill A King', as if stripping away this secretive infiltration on our psyche, refuses to bow out quietly and is for the majority, a full-flung delivery of hard-hitting beats and abstractions of spoken words that, by the end, feel more direct and questioning rather than something generalized in its placement.

Sure this is a record, much like 'Ganglion' that relies - sometimes with eagerness and dominance - on musical perception and the ability to create depth through its instrumentation, be it an instrumentation of cellos, violins and other stringed instruments. But where others may lose this illusion through repetitiveness and inorganic substance, Saltillo on the other hand masters this with unparalleled ease via his unsettling delves in orchestration and these bursts of unpredicted synthetic energy. 'Monocyte' then, is more direct, more darker and thus, more immune to being simply understood, analyzed and then just-as-simply forgotten. It's dark, but beautifully invigorating.


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