Matchess

Seraphastra

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Matchess, the darkly dreamy analog electronics solo project from Chicago musician Whitney Johnson, first appeared in the form of extremely limited cassettes. Johnson had been active in bands like Verma and E+ (a side project with members of Disappears), but explored her more avant leanings in private with the alien rhythms and harsh noise dabblings of Matchess. Seraphastra, originally released as an edition of 50 cassettes, is a weird ride through the cosmos, or at least the cosmos as seen through Johnson's lens of noise and synthesizer experimentation. Even with just seven shorter pieces, Seraphastra is epic and wastes no time in laying out its various textures and assaults. Kickoff track "The Need of the Greatest Wealth" starts in a state of full-on Krautrock worship, with wobbly Harmonia-esque organs riding a muted, nonstop electro pulse. The song feels robotic and cold but slowly degenerates into a sea of viola noise. The over-accentuated delay on the vocals of "Letters of Blood and Fire" lands somewhere between Peaking Lights' sun-worshiping indie dub and the garbled darkness of Zola Jesus' earlier recordings. "Utterly Delightful Cry of Outrage" is another standout track, burying the vocals deep in nearly unintelligible ambience while interstellar synth whoops and meditative basslines dance together in some strange alien ritual. The album relies far more on textures and vibes than overt hooks, but somehow the sounds, even at their noisiest or most intergalactic, retain a catchiness all their own. Matchess manages to convey the sound of a musician experimenting with the interconnectivity of sublime beauty and noise from the safety of her bedroom, seemingly unaware that anyone's listening in. Johnson's moments of completely unselfconscious exploration are a big part of what makes these songs work so well.

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