Reality Testing

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On early releases such as Lemurian and "Joy Reel," Matt Cutler dealt off-center hip-hop beats with vaguely nostalgic melodic and atmospheric touches. Through later tracks like "Pineapple Crush," "Once in a While," "Coreshine Voodoo," and "Crystal Caverns 1991," the producer developed a specialty for rush-inducing house tracks -- cushiony but vigorous drums, circular sparkling melodies -- with similar moods. He became so adept at creating dancefloor material that Reality Testing comes as something of a surprise. The brightness and sweetness of Cutler's sound remains largely unchanged -- and he still incorporates sampled spoken bits -- but he decelerates here into relatively restful and restrained material with renewed inspiration from vintage rap production. Elements of "Restless City" recall Soho's "Hot Music," "Meeker Warm Energy" kicks with a relaxed break, and "2 Is 8" -- with its knocking percussion and sunny horn/woodwind combo -- seems custom-made for ebullient rhymes. The tracks with roots in house and garage, highlighted by the swirling "Vengeance Video," are less frisky than past Lone highlights but are no less attractive. Most representative of the restraint is "Begin to Begin," which makes like a decent two-minute interlude until it fades out and gives way to a neo-garage variation of itself, albeit one that is muted and serves as a mere backdrop for a reminiscence from what sounds like a skateboarder. Altogether, the album is suited more for background listening or a stroll through a sun-bleached cityscape. Even when the tracks sound more sketch-like, not fully formed -- 2013 single "Airglow Fires" is a trifle by Cutler's standard -- the sheer moods are appealing.

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