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John Matthias - Stories From the Watercooler

John Matthias Stories From the Watercooler
John Matthias - Stories From the Watercooler
(CD/Download) Counter Records COUNT014/COUNTDNL014, 2008-06-02

Tracklisting :
01. Open
02. Vipers' Nest
03. I Will Disappear
04. Police Car
05. Blind Lead The Blind
06. Stockwell Road
07. Spinnaker
08. Stocktaking
09. King Of A Small Town
10. Evermore
11. It's Not
12. One Sunny Morning In The No-Fly Zone

Links : (french PR)

Press Release :
There are a lot of stories you can tell about John Matthias. We could paint him as a mad scientist, a contemporary composer, a violin prodigy, and on and on. But John Matthias is more interested in talking about other people than he is about himself.

"Stories From The Watercooler" is a suite of twelve short stories rendered in song form. Their basic template is classic folk-rock - great song-writing, acoustic and electric guitar, strings. But within this seemingly simple formula John writes about everything from the shooting of Jean Charles De Menezes, to fake alternative therapies, credit ratings and telephone banking, from boxing to Japanese internment camps in California and bombs with the face of Britney Spears painted on.

But beyond this, he also wraps the ‘classic' sound of the record in two levels of complexity. First there's a choice of instrumentation that includes harmoniums, banjos, clarinets and mono synths. Then there's the layers of electronic complexity added by his own experimental devices and the work of Coldcut, who produced the album. Last but not least there is Matthias' voice - deadpan, up-close and all the more emotional for the lack of histrionics.

None of this should be surprising. You only have to look at the list of artists Matthias has collaborated with to expect him to combine the cerebral with real feeling. The artwork for "Stories…" is provided by Stanley Donwood, best known for his record covers for Thom Yorke, the three of them having been contemporaries at Exeter University. Thom and John played in a band together during their student days and the latter added violin to "The Bends". Matthias went on to work with the maverick Matthew Herbert and released his debut album, "Smalltown Shining" on Herbert's Accidental Records. He also featured on Coldcut's last album, "Sound Mirrors,", from which his contribution, "Man In A Garage," was one of the lead singles. In addition, he is a member of the Interdisciplinary Centre For Computer Music Research at Plymouth University, having developed "The Brain," a form of artificial intelligence which he uses to programme and create his drum sounds.

The results of these differing impulses are weaved into the fabric of "Stories…". The brooding drive of "Open" gives way to the simple folk-blues of "Viper's Nest" before first single "I Will Disappear" swirls up and up into the ether and "Blind Lead The Blind" comes on all Bowie-before-he-lost-it. "Stockwell Road" is another stand-out, a moment of still beauty and genuine emotional weight. "King of a Small Town" has a real menace to it, though it's funny, too. "Evermore," soars, "It's Not" broods over string drones and album-closer, "One Sunny Morning In The No-Fly Zone," uses its string backing to add depth and complexity to the simplicity of the song.

This is clever, emotional, unfashionable music-making - it's not about John Matthias, it's not about the trials and tribulations of celebrity or non-celebrity. It's about the everyday and the unusual, about how people relate or fail to relate. A kind of folk music for a new millenium, it's about life and the world.


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yama yama ·  13 April 2008, 07:07

I can't wait.

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