Monday 12 August 2019

The Matter of A - Amphibious (2019)

Country: Poland
Style: Gothic Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 3 Jul 2019
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook

The Matter of A is a one man band, with Artur Jankowski responsible for the whole shebang: not just the singing and the playing of every instrument on this second album, but all the songwriting, arrangements and recording. He didn't paint the gorgeous cover (that's the work of wildly talented Russian artist Tanya Shatseva) and he didn't do the mixing and mastering, but that's about it. He probably put the kettle on too.

Jankowski (and thus The Matter of A) comes from the heart of Poland, a town called Mińsk Mazowiecki, which is east of Warsaw, but that can't explain the wild variety of sounds on offer here. I found the album labelled as prog or gothic rock and both sounds are certainly in here. However, I'm hearing far more than that. The band's Bandcamp page also tags this album as electronic, ambient, industrial and jazz, which helps to highlight some of its admirable diversity.

I was hooked from the outset. I played the opener, Gone and Done, three or four times before I let it run on into the next track. It's built softly on a gorgeous bass run with some ethereal saxophone and some goth musing. That sax keeps teasing us with flavour as it jumps into driving darkwave, but it isn't the only flavour. Is Jankowski playing a koto here? It's some sort of eastern lute, whatever it is, or the equivalent setting on a synthesiser.

How do I describe this stuff? Just on that one track, there's Joy Division and Primus and the Cure. There's Dream Theater and King Crimson and maybe even some reasonably accessible John Zorn. There's European darkwave of the sort you expect to find in an East Berlin nightclub before the vampires dig in to the snacks. There's stuff I don't recognise at all, because Jankowski digs deep for his influences and crafting something entirely new. I like it a lot. And overall, the feel is gothic rock because that's inherent in the vocals as well as some of the music.

While a lot of these elements move through the tracks, there's variety there too. Phase Up is less ethereal and more in your face. The Haunting Roar goes another notch up that scale, switching out quiet piano for industrial power chord assault. The Comedian's Dead highlights that this is definitely a drum machine, almost new wave in its sound but gloomier than anything mainstream. Windshield is NDH material, Rammstein with sax appeal and harmonica. Phase Disconnect gets all experimental, like Lacrimas Profundere on the other side of a dozen filters. I'm not fond of the overdone cymbals here but I love the drums.

I find this wildly interesting stuff. It's different to anything else that I can remember hearing and I treasure that. The fact that it's also damn good is a bonus. Weirdly, it's Jankowski's bass that impresses me most here, except for his songwriting of course. There's a lot of bass here and he plays it as a lead instrument. Every now and again it fades into the rest of the music, only to make itself known again soon enough in a different way. The bass on Gone and Done isn't the bass on Inside and Outside, but it's gorgeous on both.

Other aspects do that too. There's a delightful Mike Oldfield style guitar on Phase Disconnect that emerges out of the ether halfway through the track, only to dance with the drums with real style. There are little sounds like that throughout the album and they highlight to me how we need more jazz in rock music, even when it isn't instrumental fusion.

You'll know by what I've said thus far whether this is likely to be for you, but I'm really digging this and I think Inside and Outside is going to take over from Children of the Sün's Her Game as what's playing in my head when I wake up every morning. This is definitely an album I'll be returning to soon to see if I need to up my rating.

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