Published Aug 12, 2012Matthew Dear's music has always existed in a hybrid state, confidently straddling the unlikely boundaries of techno and pop but Beams, his latest and most indie-friendly release, has more in common with Beck than it does Juan Atkins or Richie Hawtin.
"I'm definitely embracing more of my other influences, using more traditional rock instruments in the studio and sampling real drums as well," says Dear from his home in the pines of upstate New York. At a time when North America is experiencing a resurgence of interest and activity in electronic forms and dance music, Dear appears to be taking his own project in the opposite direction. When pushed on his musical inspiration for his new album, Dear cites inspiration from staples such as CAN and Gary Numan but also some surprising corners, namely the late Texan singer-songwriter Townes Van Zandt. "Townes would craft these heart-aching songs that were happy and sad at the same time. I think it's the honesty that makes you happy and then you'll hear the pure sadness that he's singing about, but there's always some pure optimism at the end of the tunnel. His whole life was about realising that he's at the mercy of who he was."
On the surface Dear's carefully manicured image, cryptic lyrics and self-conscious musical statements play with a measured degree of artifice, existing in a very modern realm that couldn't be further apart from the earnest, raw country ballads of Van Zandt. On closer inspection however there are some common themes being mined. For example, the opening track on Beams, "Her Fantasy," deals with a similarly fatalist fascination with its lyric "Am I one heartbeat away from receiving a damaging shock to my life?" "A lot of my lyrics are about battling with the uncertainty of change. Not in a fearful way but just 'have I prepared myself for what comes next or what I'll leave behind?' It's a way of asking the big questions and keeping that conversation going."
Dear hasn't turned his back on techno, continuing to find time for his A&R work with Ghostly sister label Spectral Sound as well as planning another minimal techno record under Dear's Audion moniker, due for release early next year. "Growing up I was into rock and alternative but electronic stuff like 'Rockit' by Herbie Hancock or Beastie Boys stood out to me and then when I saw the genre as a whole, being in Detroit and going to warehouse parties, I was like 'wait a minute, this goes even deeper.' At the same time I was really into what Daft Punk were doing, which made me realise that now you can mix everything. It can be pop and dance!"
Dear say he's happy to see the current resurgence in electronic music even as the music he makes, at least under his own name, drifts slowly and organically away from it. "I just love the fact that more and more people are getting into electronic music, whether they are putting on furry boots and going to big rave festivals or coming at it from a more serious angle. People who want to explore music will always find the right paths to get deeper."