Some albums require a certain approach to unlock the contents. Casual background tunes, listening whilst snarled up in a traffic jam, slipped into the playlist at a party or disappearing into a late night solo adventure… Sure, we can hit play and let the music roll wherever we happen to be these days, whatever the mood, but sometimes the results can be hugely variable. Matt Valentine’s latest album Preserves is one such album that requires the listener to do whatever’s required to ready themselves. Hitting the album cold, had, on several previous attempts, left me bouncing around failing to properly engage with music that seemed to be in a permanent state of transition. Undeniably, it sounded good, but the lucid mind can sometimes look in different directions or scan for the wrong things.
Albums like Seven Up by Timothy Leary & Ash Ra Tempel and The Parable Of Arable Land by The Red Crayola are two examples of albums I love that clearly have way more going on than just what the tape picked up. Huge messy layering’s that segue into an endless stream of ideas. These albums dovetail all the weird fragments into a flowing episodic mess. How we arrive at any one point simultaneously makes perfect sense and no sense at all. Preserves feels like a great latter-day recordings that re-imagine these values.
The electronic peacock fanning in the opening instant of Light Speed> acts like an indicator that you’re entering a zone. Bulbous spaciness, rocking fragments and Valentine’s half connected lyrics, and with your expressed permission, wants to flood your brain for the next 40 minutes.
Cosmic Debris> paints a half remembered prog shadow before getting chopped into pieces. Slowly forms ascend and within the opening two tracks and 7 minutes, a lot of ground has been covered. It’s clear this journey isn’t destination focussed. Movin’ (For The Cosmic Range) settles into a laid back groove but even in this first moment that approaches clarity, things are still superbly whacked.
The drum padded heartbeats and sitar stylings of Analog Love> forms the perfect bedrock for 10 breezy minutes. The twist into orchestral fog and astral transmissions at the end feels like the weirdest of alarm clocks but to prepare the listener for another wormhole. The fleeting Crystal Mava is little more than a pleasing junction between tumbling keyboards and guitar pedal textures.
Be Kind however, has a clarity and focus that makes it feel a little over exposed. The arc of the album seems to have detoured through that weird club and this theme continues into the starting section of Minor Rager>Calliphygian Niekro>Minor Rager>. The drum patterns, the tone feels odd but 3 minutes in, we are back into a more messy funky guitar vortex. The sounds tail into thick air but slowly claw back accompanied by grooving shakers and drums… By the time things approximate a regroup, the whole track is a superbly distorted sunburst.
The closer Rockbottomless knowingly opens with the same electronic marker as the opening track but blossoms up into a fantastic zero gravity nebula of burning guitar. Music that finally feels cut free of any earth-bound anchors…
On another day, in another frame of mind Preserves may well have ended up as a suite of perfectly listenable psych rock, or an experiment in that space between Kraftwerk and disco. It could have been a funky stomp or a stoned boogie rock session.
In truth, Preserves is all these things, all these ideas layered one on top of each other like some psychedelic club sandwich. It’s not what you always order off the menu, and you’ll always pick out a few ingredients that you don’t need. You know it’s messy and a challenge to consume but sometimes it’s the only thing that hits the spot.
Preserves is out on 8th November on Beyond Beyond is Beyond. You can pre-order here