Matt Bartram, Left to Memory

Matt Bartram, Left to Memory

Matt Bartram does not create accessible music. There is nothing on Left to Memory that you can tap your toes to or sing along with, no catchy choruses or get-stuck-in-your-head riffs. If you’ve been bred on the under-three-minute, four-chords-and-a-melody song, then chances are Left to Memory will be a tough pill for you to swallow.

It’s a worthwhile pill, though.

Opening with “October Song,” a gurgling mess of reverb-drenched guitars and buried vocals, Bartram’s new album instantly earns the label “shoegaze.” As expected of any good shoegazer, Bartram knows his way around his guitar loops and effects, and he isn’t afraid to show off his profficency. Creating fuzzy, atmospheric soundscapes with countless warm layers of reverb and delay, he would fit in quite nicely with the likes of My Bloody Valentine and Jesus & Mary Chain. In fact, Bartram doesn’t at all follow along the path of contemporary shoegazers (or newgazers, as I’ve heard them called) such as Asobi Seksu or Pia Fraus — he’s missing the cutesy tweeness. He’s more of a throwback than a pioneer.

Having played with his band Air Formation for the past ten years, Bartram is by no means new on the scene. Nevertheless, his solo work is different from what he’s done in the past. Even less poppy and more atmospheric than anything by Air Formation, Left to Memory’s rhythm is provided entirely by a somewhat two-dimensional sounding drum machine, and it has hardly a trace of lead guitar.

But these are some of the things that make the album so unique and appealing. Although it’s not very accessible, it’s also not the type of music that needs to be analyzed or deeply contemplated to enjoy it. Instead, let it wrap you up and take you where it wants. Play it as you fall asleep, or while you’re driving alone. Or while you’re busy doing something else — it’s alright, it doesn’t demand full attention to be enjoyed. This is truly ambient music; it’s goal is to creat a mood, not to make you aware of a social issue or to reveal life’s secrets.

All in all, it’s a good album, if not terribly original. You can get out of Bartram what you would get out of most ethereal, early-’90s shoegaze. Although I can see myself lisening to this one in the future, I’m much more likely to reach for a Ride or MBV album to get the same effect at a higher quality.

BUY ME: Amazon

Review by . Review posted Thursday, July 1st, 2010. Filed under Features, Reviews.

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