[11 June 2014]
PopMatters Assistant Editor
Opening with the chime of mallets and a hazy wah-wah guitar, Matthew Connor’s “Smoke Signals” is an apt demonstration of the crooner’s old-fashioned proclivities. “Smoke Signals”, a cut off his forthcoming Farewell Motel LP, sounds like the kind of number one would hear at a noir-themed nightclub. The instrumentation is low-key and understated, leaving the Boston-based Connor to stand out on top of the mix with his unique vocal.
Not to leave an intriguing song untouched, four differing artists took “Smoke Signals” into their own hands, providing listeners with several different takes on the track. Electronic producer André Obin turns Connor’s night-lounge friendly mood into a straightforward, ‘80s-leaning version. Though there’s a danceability to Obin’s handiwork, the mood is still subdued; Connor’s languid vocal delivery remains intact.
Danish rock musician and producer Troels Abrahamsen’s vision for the song, similarly to Obin’s, doesn’t involve boosting the tempo and pace much at all—though he gets the closest to turning “Smoke Signals” into a club-friendly bumper. Echoes of Modeselektor‘s chilled-out moments can be heard in his remix, with glitchy electronics ping-ponging off of a steady, insistent beat.
Joss Ryan, a East London DJ and musician, enhances the noir lounge mood already palpable in Connor’s original version of the song. Ryan brings piano chords higher up into the mix, bringing to mind the image of a burned-out lounge singer with a five o’clock shadow singing sad songs as he massages the ebony and ivory of the piano. Just when you think it chilled out, however, Ryan throws in a curveball at the end of the remix, throwing in some synths straight from the Dr. Luke playbook.
Clint Michael Sand goes by the name synnack when he records experimental electronic music. Fittingly, his spin on “Smoke Signals” is the most experimental of the bunch, playing heavily with negative space and texture. His manipulation of Connor’s voice morphs the vintage, debonair style of the original vocal into an eerie, slightly off-key choral effect, which becomes even more ominous as the tense beat thumps beneath it.
“Smoke Signals” and its four remixes will be available for download via Connor’s Bandcamp page this Thursday, June 12th. Farewell Motel is set to be released this October.