"If a piña colada is like trance, and a shot of unfiltered vodka is like techno, I guess I'm like a tequila sunrise," says Detroit-based microhouse producer Matthew Dear. "I try to glue some edge to my tracks, but there's also the lyrics, which provide a sweetness."
Producing under his given name -- as well as the pseudonyms False and Jabberjaw -- for labels including Plus 8 out of Canada, Berlin-based Perlon and Ann Arbor, Mich.'s Ghostly International -- Dear established himself by paring down the conventions of techno and house into a microtonal melange.
Detroit, point of origin for techno, has always been lauded for its austerity. The city's very center is one of hollowed decay, surrounded by circlets of motion. The Motor City is a testament to how space can be as heavy as the most momentous sound. This unintentional aesthetic applies to much of minimal techno's initial emotional disconnection.
Dear, however, is not a Detroit native. While respecting the city's traditions, he works within the medium of microhouse, a genre related to minimal techno. Microhouse took the histrionics of house, flayed them away and retained minimalism's efficiency and Chicago house's rubbery funk without eschewing all humanistic influence. Dear collects his efforts on Leave Luck to Heaven, a CD of springy percolating pecks that celebrates Dear's philosophy that life is guided by happy accidents: everything from stumbling onto an attractive digitally generated sound to being prompted toward electronic composition by an early introduction to Nitzer Ebb and New Order.
Dear grew up in Texas, where he was weaned on everything from folk to industrial. Following in a tradition descended from the Beatles through Depeche Mode, Dear retains a melancholy melody to his music. Melancholy serves as a potent transport, allowing for multiple experiences, whether it's to reminisce fondly or brood longingly. When performing live, however, Dear doesn't allow the mood any leeway in which to stagnate.
"When you're alone in your bedroom recording or listening, you can dwell on all kinds of things when involved in music," says Dear. "But when I'm performing live, I remember that -- first and foremost -- what's in front of me is a dancefloor."
One of Dear's inspirations turns out to be locally based anarco-architexturalist Richard Devine. Dear heard Devine in Miami a few years ago and was blown away by Devine's aggressive but grounded chaos. "[Richard] laid down a futuristic plotline that didn't rely on a kick and a hi-hat, but still managed to aggressively grip you and rhythmically fire your reflexes. It was what I imagined clubs 50 years from now would sound like."
Using a laptop program called Ableton Live, which allows a producer to transfer his personality to prerecorded sounds in real time, Dear injects his free will through his fingertips, out the amplifiers and into the neurological nets of the crowd. He enjoys using the more malleable conventions of dance music as elements indicative of his playful intentions. His compositions are crisp collections of clipped swinging hiccups.
Recently, Dear has experimented with performing his material truly live, singing while musicians interpolate his tracks. The process has allowed Dear a more direct glance into what can transcend the blank stare of the traditional crowd member. The discoveries will likely inform an upcoming EP of more pop-based material.
"Just the way that finding the sound that appeals to me is a process of luck, having the listener find personal meaning in a song involves a willingness to chance it," says Dear. "I just do what I do and put it out there. I'm not creating entirely new music; I'm just trying to put my spin on it. I'm here to offer my take on what I've heard, blend it up and put it out."
Sounds like a well-mixed libation.
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