At this point — 13 years, five albums, and several side projects into a preconception-skirting career as a producer/DJ/performer — it shouldn’t be surprising to find Matthew Dear fully embracing his inner Eno, Bowie and Byrne. And yet, longtime fans still shout “play ‘Dog Days’!” at some of his shows, as if they wish he’d stop trying to be a bandleader and return to his twisted techno roots behind the soft glow of a laptop and some MIDI triggers.
That’s not gonna happen. Beams is yet another step in Dear’s welcome evolution as a songwriter. Not a party-rocker. Not a floor-filler. A songwriter. And since he started off as more of a club crawler — a micro-house auteur, to use the short-lived, oh-so-2003 term — Dear isn’t quite a pop star just yet. He’s getting there, though, as proven by the unparalleled perfection of this album’s lead-off single, “Her Fantasy.” A career standout, it’s willfully wild and downright weird, from its Kenneth Anger-cribbing music video to its woozy rave whistle and incessant sampled chorus of “Pump it!/ Pump the bass!” The rest of the record follows suit with one decidedly strange detour after another, including the tortured nervous tics of “Earthforms,” the lava-like loops and minor-keyed downward spiral of “Shake Me,” and the deviant disco of “Up & Out.”
It takes at least 10 listens to sink in, and even then it’s a grower, but Dear’s released yet another record that’s completely removed from the rest of his catalog. Now all he needs to do is cut 10 tracks that are as tight as “Her Fantasy.” Then he’ll have a true classic on his hands.