There is a certain shambolling self-deprecation to an awful lot of home recorded material, almost as if in some sense it felt it had to apologise for itself. Mat Riviere’s new album may have a lot of the home recorded aesthetic about it, but it doesn’t feel like it has to excuse itself.
I think this is related to the presence of his voice, which has solidity and character, lending an air of gravitas to an album full of kitchen percussion and wonky piano. The slow, steady rhythms also bring an air of surprisingly relentless purpose, making Follow Your Heart the kind of record which feels like it’s disquietingly staring you down across a crowded bar. You wonder if continuing to meet its gaze will result in a fight you don’t want, then you wonder if looking away will do the same thing, and you end up frozen and slightly panicked, but unable to turn away.
I don’t have the ear to tell, of course, but this album sounds like it was recorded entirely in someone’s front room* with an electronic backing track humming and popping along, overlaid with handclaps, what sounds like a melodica, and some rather portentous organ sounds. It’s an odd mixture of the rickety and the robust, which might be at the heart of its appeal.
I can easily imagine people finding Follow Your Heart a little bit one-paced after a couple of listens, but once you’re more into it I think you’ll find the shift of the underlying rhythms, from skittish to sad to bordering on industrial, brings with it subtle but important changes of mood. Curse These Eyes and Evening Drive are quite foreboding, Godless Girl more enigmatic and ethereal, and early songs like Castroeale desperately looking for a bit of optimism somewhere. The changes in instrumentation and emotional foundation may not be huge, but they keep the feel of the album shifting on slightly uncertain sands as it progresses, which stops it ever slipping into a rut and becoming boring.
It’s taken me a little while to get into this, though, I must confess. I knew I liked the sounds from the very first listen, but it took a few more goes to develop an emotional attachment to the individual songs. Initially I think the latent menace in a couple of them perhaps kept me at arms length, and it took a little while for the intimacy of tracks like Lamplight to extend a more welcoming hand. Since that has happened, however, I have been really enjoying this.
Mat Riviere – Godless Girl
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* Just have a look at his MySpace page and it would appear that this guess is not far from the truth.