[sic] Magazine

Matt Bartram – Left To Memory

The second wave of the music phenomenon known as Shoegaze continues with the release of Matt Bertram’s second album Left To Memory. The curious thing about Matt Bartram however is that he brings a lone troubadour mentality to the genre. All the tracks on this album have been recorded on an eight track in his bedroom between June 2008 and January 2009. He is, in effect, the Mike Skinner of Shoegaze.

Recording and building the songs from improvisations based around rhythms, drones and shifting textural layers the end results are without doubt miasmically invigorating though not especially original. Consequently this reviewer feels safe in mentioning names like My Bloody Valentine circa Loveless, The Jesus & Mary Chain (though this is far more blissed out with none of their giddy iconoclasm) early AR Kane or Boo Radleys and most definitely Slowdive which is not surprising when considering that ex-Slowdive and Monster Movie member Christian Savill helped with the recording on odd tracks.

Interspersed with the blurry chords and gradated layers of sound are diametrically opposed precise beats and the fuggy vocals which give the whole a vague narcoleptic air. It’s all extremely agreeable but the album does suffer from a lack of variation and nuanced changes of pace. Indeed it’s possibly worthwhile pointing out that much of this album bears more relation to bands like Flying Saucer Attack (as the promo notes helpfully point out) or The Telstar Ponies in that this is music with a (indolent) nod to ambient. Listen to the ebb and flow of ‘Vision Pt 1’ or the extended low-level feedback fuzz of ‘Twelve String Loop’ and their diaphanous structure owe as much to ambient as they do to rock.

Tracks like ‘Shadows ‘ (arguably the albums highpoint) ‘Another Wave ‘(arguably the albums highpoint as well) and ‘ October’ do though showcase that with strong enough songs Matt Bartram is most assuredly onto something. These are terrific rock songs, all be it rock songs with the edges erased and smudged and their innards constructed from gaseous elements. Ironically the song whose title best sums up this album,’Cycles ‘ is the one track that with its imperative percussion and propulsive bass line bucks the trend.

Left To Memory isn’t likely to linger long in the mind after listening to it. It lacks the hooks, the tunes and the killer riffs, but it does have an odd magnetic power when it is playing. So it’s real strength is not being left to memory at all, but in the here & now and the mesmerising empiricism of its billowing chords.