Eric Matthews: Six Kinds of Passion Looking for an Exit

Gary Glauber

After a prolonged absence, Matthews returns with his signature spacious orchestral pop sound, yet it leaves the listener wanting more.

Eric Matthews

Six Kinds of Passion Looking for an Exit

Label: Empyrean
US Release Date: 2005-03-01
UK Release Date: 2005-03-14
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After a protracted absence of over seven years, American original Eric Matthews finally returns to the musical scene in 2005 with a new mini-album of quality, lush orchestral pop that continues his unique musical legacy. The time away hasn't translated into Matthews' prolificacy; what you get here is quality, not quantity. Six Kinds of Passion Looking for an Exit is a seven song collection that runs a little over 33 minutes. Still, from the opening word, it's a treat to hear that hushed, breathy voice back again, and with new material.

For those unfamiliar with Matthews, he made his debut in 1994 as half of the band Cardinal (along with Australian Richard Davies). They released one extraordinary eponymous album before splitting off into solo careers. Matthews went on to release two well-received collections on Sub Pop Records, 1995's It's Heavy in Here and 1997's The Lateness of the Hour.

This Oregon native has always been in love with symphonic pop from the time he played trumpet in elementary school, adoring those from John Williams to Burt Bacharach to the Bee Gees and the Beach Boys. His music is the result of orchestral theory made real, taking his instrumental and compositional skills and creating ornate baroque compositions that are perfectly controlled, even as the soft vocals often sing lyrics of sensitive and moody reflections.

The current offering remains true to form. The new music is a little more guitar-based and mellow, with fewer horns perhaps than in past efforts, but the songs remain delicate portraits of inner musings: lush, carefully constructed soundscapes that might underwhelm at first listen, yet subtly mesmerize over time. Matthews is a master of romantic arrangement, and his spare placement of instruments allows ample space for the whispery double-tracked vocals to breathe. There's always a sense of intelligent craft to his music, a sense that everything is just so for a reason.

The CD opens with "Worthy", a gentle yet grand and poetic love song that heralds acceptance ("Going blind to my scars, seeing burns like best stars") as well as distance ("walk away, you can see who you are"). While Matthews handles almost all the instruments throughout the album, Gregg Williams adds drums and Wes Matthews contributes a guitar solo to this track.

"So Overblown" is a six-minute soft pop epic featuring breathy lead vocals, sweet harmonies, piano, a haunting fuzzy lead guitar line (smooth as Larry Carlton) and more. I'm not quite sure what it's about (an elicit affair, perhaps?), but it suggests one left behind for another: "Do you hear this cry through my tearless eyes / Haven't seen many cast behind / If I were better designed and I could erase my mind / I might still be left behind". This is exactly the type of well-crafted piece that is vintage Eric Matthews.

The album veers into personal confession territory with "Cardinal Is More" -- a song of reconciliation sent out to former bandmate Richard Davies: "Cardinal was more than just a new band / Two men on an island / If memories run short, the legend grows silent". Matthews pays tribute to Davies and his talents, even name-checking the Bee Gees as ones who would understand.

And speaking of Cardinal -- thankfully, the rights to that earlier Cardinal music are now owned by Matthews and Davies again. As such, word is that the album has been remastered and soon will be re-released in the summer of 2005, featuring 11 previously unheard bonus tracks and additional liner notes better explaining what went into the creation of that record.

"Underground Song" is a somber slow-paced song that opens with a verse that ascends and descends melodically, then goes into another verse that is a direct melodic rip-off of the Rascals' "How Can I Be Sure." Yet, this is mesmerizing and affecting, a song about isolation ("I'm safe underground / Relief in no sound") from "waters that hate me".

The one relatively upbeat song in this batch is "Do You Really Want It?", a song that sports an almost disco-backbeat behind a celebration of small shared events, a dialogue in a loving relationship. It sticks out as less weighty than the other tracks -- shorter and more energetic -- notable in that it captures Matthews in a rare optimistic mood.

The third epic track (at about six minutes) is another somber tale told, ironically entitled "You Will Be Happy". Upon a friend's grandfather's death, Matthews is drawn to reflect on what comprised this man's life from the time of his boyhood until "Age has crept in and done him in / Living long was his only sin / It's all been done / He did it himself and won". Again, this is well-done, and gains an almost hypnotic aspect upon repeated listens.

This CD ends with a glorious musing that seems (relative to the others) only a fragment of a song, but the two minutes of "Black to Light Brown" are a vibrant celebration, featuring Matthews' bright trumpet lead-in, prominent bass lines, and Gregg Williams and Tony Lash on drums. It sort of fades and drifts off, leaving the listener still hungry.

While there aren't any songs here that approach the past glory of "Fanfare", it's still very good to have the talented Eric Matthews back on disc, crafting painstakingly beautiful sounds that only he can manage to do so well. Six Kinds of Passion Looking for an Exit should whet the appetites of those who've long been awaiting new music -- yet it won't quite quell their desire for wanting more. This strong, brief collection of lush and spare confessional musings is a fine addition to the Matthews canon -- here's hoping we won't have to wait so long for the next installment.


From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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