It's hard to think of Matthew Dear as an accomplished elder, a weary participant in a techno ultra-world made up of slick club kids, grubby ravers and parties that go on for days. But in it he is, and in demand mostly in his Audion guise for Ann Arbor-based Ghostly International's Spectral Sounds sub-label as much as any electronic music performer on the planet.
Dear is now 28 and eight years into a career that began when he was still an undergraduate at U-M. His script as a successful artist was written in 2003, when he dropped Leave Luck to Heaven, an LP that weaved elements of pop, disco, house and techno into a package that challenged the limitations of genre-specific dance music. He brought his own voice into the mix, but manipulated and edited it like just another audio file.
But on Asa Breed, Dear connects that voice to his heart. He bares his soul, telling stories of loss and longing, friendship and love, deceit and murder. The music retains some of the structure that comes from cut-and-paste composition, but the power of the songs transcends it.
"Neighborhoods" rides atop a familiar bounce that Dear has used before, but it also contains drum patterns that suggest careful listening to Talking Heads circa 1980. The temperature rises on "Vine to Vine," an angry guitar jam set "in the heat of the Texas sun" and on "Don and Sherri," a power groover with a crushing bassline and lateral soul-funk riddims. "Deserter" is a tale of a lonely searcher, "an infidel for commitment." But in the end he comes home, told in this phrase of jaw-dropping honesty and redemption: "All over now, or is this just the beginning? ... My friends have come and gone, but you're still here, and my head's spinning." Walter Wasacz