Captivating distractions are everywhere within the confines of the titular Black City of Matthew Dear’s fourth full length album. The man who makes the techno world shake under aliases Audion, False and Jabberjaw, uses his given name for releases that seem to continuously grow more adventurous and approachable, and this latest effort finds him at his best on all fronts. Getting lost in Dear’s creations is almost a given as dark pop moments rise from the allure of train sparks reflecting in a puddle’s inky sheen, the wind rasping amidst the debris of urban decay and the enticing shadows that play in dark corners. Dear finds personal angst and vulnerability along with deep beauty in these haunted moods, and Black City offers up the sounds of an artist in full control, even as overwhelming emotions get the best of him.
In all of his musical efforts Dear shows off an innate sense for staying true to the musical roots of the styles he employs while making songs that stay accessible to people who’ve never before encountered such sounds. For Black City those sounds grow from techno, post-punk and art rock influences, as Dear refuses to let himself stand too long in one spot. Pacing is a key to the album, with the drifting fog sounds of opener “Honey” giving way to the naked bassline and synthetic stabs of “I Can’t Feel” before “Little People (Black City)” comes gliding in on a tarnished disco groove that Dear exploits and transforms throughout its 9-minute run. Drumloops and basslines stand out in the front with guitars, synths and other elements used for accenting both the rhythms and the moods, while Dear’s distinctive baritone is put to use every way he can. Loops of short vocal bursts and verbal debris get employed as both rhythm and melody while lead vocals are sometimes doubled and tripled in the mix until they’re cast with a robotic pallor. The cumulative results of his efforts are a masterpiece both dark and striking. Dear is putting forth an open invitation to tour these shadowed places of his imagination, and this is one offer too good to miss.