Matt Bartram: Left To Memory
Drifting Falling

In the liner notes to his second solo release (Arundel, the first, was released in March 2008), Air Formation's Matt Bartram offers the gentlemanly suggestion: “This album will sound best when played loud so please turn it up.” Subjecting oneself to the album's forty minutes of shoegaze songcraft, one doesn't only undergo a thorough excavation of one's ear canals but also experiences a heady and enveloping rush of guitars, programmed drums, and echo-drenched vocals (the gear listed at Bartram's MySpace page includes Fender Jazzmaster, Jaguar, Telecaster & Thinline, Fender Jaguar Bass VI Custom, Guild Starfire III, synths, Farfisa).

In “Keep Behind the Light,” murmured vocals ride a tidal wave of burning guitars in a shoegaze pop style that calls to mind The Jesus and Mary Chain's Darklands, while “Shadows” comes closest to shoegaze in its most classic form. Though the songs typically feature barely-decipherable vocals buried under immense six-string swarms, there are differences in style between them. One could easily imagine “The Difference Day Makes,” for example, re-imagined as a folk song. The plodding “Pylon” likewise could be recast as a ballad of romantic languor, while “3am,” not surprisingly, could be a late-night ballad in another incarnation—all of which is a circuitous way of saying that these are songs first and shoegaze anthems second. Offering brief respites from the intensity, phase-treated guitars criss-cross peacefully in two ambient interludes (“Visions Pt. 1,” “Visions Pt. 2”). Finally, it's a solo recording in the truest sense of the word, with Bartram having recorded the songs at home on his eight track. The sole guest appearance is by Christian Savill (Slowdive, Monster Movie) who straps on his own electric twelve-string for “Twelve String Loop,” a jaunty instrumental trek through rippling fields of guitar distortion.

Loud but not abrasive, Bartram's music washes over the listener like a warm shower, and one surrenders to the music's huge roar with little resistance (in producing the album, his stated aim was to create “hypnotic, mesmerizing, and uplifting tracks”). If you're a devotee of My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and, of course, Air Formation, Left To Memory should be regarded as, if not an essential addition to your library, at the very least a natural one.

November 2009