Published Mar 30, 2020Uniqueness in electronic music materializes in a variety of forms. Some artists opt to master a particular genre, while others may simply compose the majority of their music within a particular tempo range. In the case of Matt Karmil, his brand of electronic music is characterized by a broad brushstroke of aural opacity and haze. Dusty and distorted, Karmil has made a career of composing eclectically, while still maintaining the sonic particularity that has become associated with his art. Now, following Will, his last outing, Matt Karmil returns to Smalltown Supersound with STS371.
The album begins without much fuss or fanfare, with "Smoke" dropping us swiftly into Karmil's world. Crackling vinyl sounds and recessed instrumentals sit atop the overdriven 303 bass line bouncing underneath. In terms of ideas, it feels a little under-explored — almost like the meat of a track was extracted from the whole, without leaving much room for exploration. "Hard" fares better, with a dim pad that slowly grows to become surprisingly energetic, thanks mostly to a driving rhythm section.
"Snail Shower" is appropriately mesmeric, and continually offers surprises in the form of experimental synthetic treats that appear throughout — an exceptional case within the album. Indeed, the main complaint that emerges with STS371 is that it feels as though many of the ideas presented could have been jams that were recorded in one take. That is not always a bad thing, but in the case of tracks like "PB," and "Still Not French," perhaps further nuance and elaboration on the ideas presented would have befitted them. "SR/WB" is more fleshed out, but it still pales in comparison to what Will, Karmil's previous album, was at its best.
"210" ends the album, and it's a clear highlight. Effective, restrained and nuanced, it's carried by a Jan Jelinek-inspired chordal tone that hangs meditatively throughout. It's also the closest that the album comes to expanding on the strengths of his previous work, both on Smalltown Supersound, and on labels like Idle Hands. In the end, STS371 is not a weak album by any means, and Matt Karmil's ideas are quite clearly plentiful and abundant on this most recent outing. In this case, however, it feels as though these ideas needed a bit more time to rise in the oven. (Smalltown Supersound)