Mathew Jonson: Her Blurry Pictures
Crosstown Rebels

Mathew Jonson's comments on his working methods provide insight into his latest solo outing Her Blurry Pictures, which he primarily created in his Berlin studio in 2012 (some of its earlier pieces originated in his Vancouver hometown). Likening his work in the improv trio Cobblestone Jazz to “a conversation between players” and in the dancefloor-focused Midnight Operator to an “all-out attack on the senses,” he characterizes his solo work as introspective and organic; as he says, “In the studio I keep an intuitive way of working where there is freedom outside the laws of musical training.”

Such comments certainly dovetail with the nature of the material presented on his solo album for Crosstown Rebels where one hears the Wagon Repair head both controlling the music's direction and allowing it to direct him, too. A good example of the approach is heard in the opening piece “Level 7,” whose free-wheeling flow of fluid rhythms and chiming synth patterns were created during a soundcheck at the Free Your Mind festival.

Her Blurry Pictures truly begins to perk up one's ears upon the arrival of the third track “Sahara,” whose shuffling pitter-patter bubbles as hyperactively as the opening cuts but adds to its sequencer patterns a warped keyboard effect that can't help but drill itself into one's cranium. Nice, too, is the languorous title track, which effectively captures the dreamy and emotive side of Jonson's music. Other tracks include memorable details in their sound design, too: a distorted swirl of voices drapes itself across the driving house groove of “Touch the Sky,” and the funky house jam “Kissing Your Eyes” receives a boost from the addition of micro-glissandi to its fleet-footed skip.

It's all expertly crafted and certainly a more-than-credible account of Jonson's personalized take on house and techno. But while its sound design is elegant and sophisticated, Her Blurry Pictures doesn't register as the great album that I'd like to believe Jonson is capable of making. All eight tracks impress in one way or another, but only “Lightweight Champion,” a punchy electro-house throwdown egged on by synth stabs and shaker percussion effects, strikes me as the kind of throat-grabber I'll be compelled to return to long after the album's release. Good as Her Blurry Pictures is, I think Jonson's capable of better.

June 2013