"2 solo albums finished" – with a tweet coming out of nowhere, The Internet reactivated an already well-oiled machine after the success of their latest album, released last summer. One for all, and all for one, after all. Taking on his role as the eldest, Matt Martians kicks off proceedings with a project as musically accomplished as it is disjointed.
A man in the shadows
Odd Future proposed an innovative vision of hip hop at the turn of the decade. Fresher, somewhat wild, this project drew its energy from the perpetual renewal of its subset, composed by members. As one of the brains behind this success, Matt works on instinct. His meeting with Tyler, The Creator persuaded him to leave Atlanta and move to California. His bet on Steve Lacy was based on the same conviction. A few years later, the names of these two artists are firmly rooted in the musical landscape.
If Matt has seemed to take step back, it is because his added value doesn’t lie in the spotlight. Is it intelligence? Certainly, but also generosity in his human relationships. Syd, with whom he created The Internet, willingly assigned him the role of the big brother. Matt fits in well with this status: un-expansive about his private life and always available for others. A difficult break-up, however, calls into question this benevolence. The Last Party is his move towards catharsis.
Head in the clouds
Matt had promised not to do a solo album again, but love has a funny way of playing with the rules. After a busy tour with The Internet, it only took him two weeks to finish The Last Party. However, can we really talk about it in terms of a ‘finished’ product? There aren’t many lyrics, and the eight songs struggle to reach half an hour of music in total. Worse still, Matt falls into what we could term ‘sausage making’ – most of the songs on the album are composed of several distinct parts, the “hidden songs.”
Artistic richness has never been an obstacle to elegance, but it requires a certain coherency. To completely separate different grooves by simple crossfading is no longer daring but instead comes across as laziness. The different parts, which are very catchy in their own rights, could have had the virtue of existing individually. This scrappy aspect of the album therefore feels deliberate; Earl Sweatshirt has recently adopted this process on purpose. But if the rendering is not as convincing here, it is because the quality of the parts required a more meticulous treatment.
Head screwed on his shoulders
Why? Because the album doesn’t suffer from any downtime. With The Drum Chord Theory, released two years earlier, Matt was looking for experimentation, hence the raw and alternative sounds that emerged. The Last Party presents a body of music that is much easier to listen to, and much closer to the hits we have grown accustomed to The Internet releasing. “Southern Isolation 2,” for example, is a more elaborate cover version of the same title that the keyboardist released on his previous album.
Since the Odd Future years, Matt has been bringing a specific sound to his productions. The dreamy layers and a polymorphic groove design have become his trademark. He never goes out of his comfort zone – not because there is no risk, but because it is already large enough. And for good reason, the contribution of several artists to the album does not dilute Matt’s sound, which is able to digest multiple influences very well.
In many ways, his vocal approach is reminiscent of Thundercat, both in the way he whispers on “Out Of The Game” and in the superimposition of the voices. But we also find the psychedelic elements that are dear to Mac DeMarco, who is credited on the production. This appropriation hits its peak on “Off My Feet / Westside Rider Anthem.” The first part, supported by neo-Soul agreements, recalls the Aquemini period of Outkast. Quickly, the change of beat and heavier bass playing make the transition to a second section that points towards the beginnings of The Roots.
Then follows “Pony Fly” whose opening is marked by Steve Lacy’s retro funk. But it’s the second part of the piece that reveals the hidden treasure. A perfect fusion between the futurism of Erykah Badu on New Amerykha Part 2 and Daft Punk epicness on the track “Voyager.” We can only bemoan the short duration of the passage. Voyager was also the name of Matt’s first album with his collective The Jet Age Of Tomorrow. He has come a long way since then, yet discretion has remained his motto.
Who is Matt Martians?
In an interview with DJ Booth, Matt affirmed his artistic independence: “If you make an album that’s completely you and it’s completely honest, nobody can tell you if it’s good or bad, because it’s you.” But who is he? He is absent on social networks, quite the move for a member of ‘The Internet,’ and his music remains the best way to deliver his voice. Yet, with this small half hour, Matt gives us little to understand why he was brought out of his silence. The lyrics are too light to reveal his true feelings, and the music seems to be out of step with what he wants to express.
“Knock Knock Knock” illustrates this paradox perfectly. In the midst of a delirium over his new shoes with which he seems to have a precarious relationship, Matt decides to change his mind and opt for Birkenstocks. Rather trivial for a guy who begins the track by yearning for a girl. Clearly, the keyboard player never took himself seriously. “If I have to dress up, I don’t wanna go,” he shouts on “Pony Fly.” His clowning around seems to be a clear defense mechanism to avoid revealing his weaknesses. So be it. We’ll have to stick to the music.
Matt Martians, The Last Party (3qtr)