Matthew Dake’s one-man recording project You Are Home is known for hyperactive instrumental compositions built around bass guitar and drums that at their most accessible moments sound a bit like some kind of mathy Krautrock version of Lightning Bolt. Depending on who you ask, the results are either amazing, confusing, or maddening.
“…” is the first You Are Home album to be recorded in Dake’s shiny new basement studio setup. It revels in a richer color palette than most previous You Are Home material by incorporating a wider range of instruments. Where earlier You Are Home releases would tend to go for relentlessly bludgeoning, “…” is more likely to aim for a groove or mood you can really get wrapped up in.
“Idiot Police” starts off with a floor-tom roll that sounds like the beginning of The Stooges’ “Dirt”, then launches into a free-jazz explosion of drums, delayed Casio keyboards, and the crumbliest distortion imaginable. After this intro burst, the track alternates between a more guitar-heavy version of the well-established You Are Home sound, and what sounds like a distorted acoustic guitar, possibly recorded though a broken microphone, without ever losing hold of its furious 7/8 riff. The keyboards and junky acoustic guitar introduce one recurring theme I find intriguing in You Are Home releases, that of bringing lo-fi sonic elements into a relatively polished production. Next “Live At The Sands” keeps up the quick tempo and adds a ringing piano. It actually sounds like its title, like Neu or Kraftwerk performing in an exotic outdoor location.
Some tracks on “…” bear the mark of, or may just be borrowing the feel of, looper-based music, a hypnotic, rather mechanical repetition with instruments joining in one at a time. Helping to keep things interesting is a cross-fading of things into each other, such as the way “Dummy” fades into the ambient synths and organ that comprise the first half of “…”, sounding like something that Can might have done on either Ege Bamyasi or Tago Mago (“Peking O” maybe?), which then gradually cross-fades with a 6-beat funk riff that sounds like an intro in search of something to introduce, which then cuts off abruptly just a little after I start to lose my patience with it.
After being treated to a dense glob of noise backed by an intense Neu-ish groove called “somebodyupthereHATESme” and a very nice slow-build drone piece called “My Dirt Makes Your Mud”, we get to “Airborne,” which is the real masterpiece of this album, even though it is technically like another series of scenes fading into one another the way “Dummy” and “…” are put together. There’s a menacing one-note guitar chug forming the rhythmic basis behind a jazzy meandering clarinet and a piercing synth-piano note at regular intervals that evokes the seat belt sign chime on an airplane. It’s then joined by a descending horror-movie piano melody — in fact the whole track sounds like good horror-movie soundtrack stuff. A wide variety of different sounds fade in and out at different times, keeping the scene constantly shifting — there’s Eastern-ish percussion, an upright bass, and some watery synthesizer bloops, organ, and Claire Kreusel doing the kind of ethereal “human theremin” vocals she’s known for in Longshadowmen. By the end only Claire and one long organ chord are left standing, and then even Claire disappears leaving the organ and a distant wind sound to fade slowly out. It’s an intricate, highly layered, carefully constructed piece, particularly given its being constructed from repetitive elements, and is really something pretty special and profound.
Finally there’s “Ditchweed Blues,” a slide-guitar blues goof so raw and trashy sounding that I wonder whether it’s actually Pink Villa. Coming at the tail end of the album following “Airborne” it feels extraneous and a bit jokey but if Dake wanted to end the album on a not-too-serious note, which seems like him, then it works.
Matt Dake’s ADD approach to composition isn’t always easy to follow, and lives at a kind of nebulous gray area between “experimental” rock and the avant-garde. If you already are a fan of weird stuff, you’ll find “…” easy to get comfortable in, very enjoyable but not “difficult” listening. On the other hand, if you’ve found You Are Home dense and difficult before (delightfully so, in this writer’s opinion), “…” is a good opportunity to give it another try. It wins either way.