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Matt Shoemaker, "Mercurial Horizon"

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cover image Before his untimely passing in 2017, Matt Shoemaker had a number of releases completed and ready to be released, including Mercurial Horizon.  Recorded at various times between 2008 and 2012, during one of his most prolific phases, the album was completed five years ago, but just now being released.  Split into two half hour pieces, it almost seems built for cassette, but thankfully presented as a gorgeous CD by the Elevator Bath label that does wonders to capture the depth and nuance of his work.  Beautiful, unsettling, and bleak, it makes for an amazing disc that was worth the wait.

Elevator Bath

Shoemaker’s trademark use of field recordings and electronics appear throughout, but never being deployed in any easily identified form.  Matt opens the first piece with a wet canyon of sound:  a shimmering expanse covered in sticky reverb.  Complex layers of sound define the piece, with a slew of weird, indistinct sounds and electronic pulses appearing throughout.  A mysterious clanging and buzzing, serrated noises give a sense of menace that will soon take over, with a subtle, drifting melody that offsets the darkness.

It is an extremely dynamic work, but that sinister feel becomes even more notable when grinding noises and unnatural sounding bells toll away.  Bubbling, organic textures and strange grinding layers keep the malicious sensibility in place, and a far off heartbeat like thud conjures some notable "strange thing in the darkness" moods.  Coupled with the murky, jungle-like field recordings (not unlike his work with Indonesian field recordings as Fosil Sangiran), it ends on an extremely unsettling note.

This carries directly over to the second piece, which is comparably more open but no less dark.  The mix is wide open at the onset, with processed animalistic noises rising up as sinister outbursts throughout.  He retains this pattern for a while:  passages of near silence interrupted by creepy noises and a faster rate, with additional electronics coming in to maintain that feel of looming menace.  That oppressive jungle feel comes back with some excellent crunchy textures, punctuating that alien, unnatural feel.

As the piece progresses, modular electronics do an impressive imitation of a helicopter signal a transition to different, but no less unsettling environment.  The mix collapses, leaving only a frigid tinnitus drone, which fits his photographs of ice that adorn the digipak perfectly.  There is a distant shimmer of light in the horizon, but the isolation is strong and cold.  A strange clanking noise appears and the mix becomes even denser, again capturing that feel of something that is out of sight closing in, and he retains that sense of danger all the way to the end.

It is quite sad that Mercurial Horizon was not released before Matt Shoemaker's passing, because the depth and fully realized nature of this work would surely have garnered him some well-deserved accolades.  Every one of his works that I have had the pleasure of hearing have been amazing, but everything seems to mesh beautifully here.  His field recording treatments, unique electronic experimentation, and ability to conjure a heavy, cinematic mood throughout make this disc especially unique.  While I hope this is not necessarily the last of his completed works that we will hear, if it is, it is a brilliant postscript to a tragically short career.

Samples Available Here.

Last Updated on Sunday, 08 March 2020 18:51  


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