Emperor X

Western Teleport

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While Emperor X is, at base, an earnestly quizzical, one-person project from a singer/songwriter obsessed with all things technical and geeky -- the first song on Western Teleport refers to Cylons, USBs, and Tasers, among other things -- the funny thing about Western Teleport is how it sounds and feels like a full band creating something multilayered. That sounds a bit flippant, given how easily and often a performer with the right dedication and talent can now literalize the idea of the one-man-band in the 21st century, but Chad Matheny, following in the footsteps of similarly inclined performers, has fully settled into the textural possibilities such options can provide. His dry but earnest singing, calling to mind the work of equally singular performer Stan Ridgway -- a parallel all the more clear given how still-newish-to-Southern-California Matheny is on Western Teleport, providing a vision of a less glamorous life in L.A., much like Ridgway often has; he settles into arrangements that can, on first blush, seem like indie quirks but avoid sounding cloying. The sense of drama and even a little sternness in the arrangements of "Sig Alert," shimmering guitar to the fore, works just as well as the almost Feelies-like focus on "Defiance," a chance for him to demonstrate his ability to control and extend an arrangement in a great, lengthy ending. When Matheny strips things back down to a simpler approach, it's certainly enjoyable enough. But the crackle of feedback and field recording on "The Magnetic Media Storage Practice," however familiar both as general aesthetic and from his own work, seems less like an approach and more like a slight limitation when new possibilities present themselves, especially ones that work well for him, as on the rushed and full-sounding "Allahu Akbar," one of the few indie rock songs of recent years that makes the full-bodied approach actually sound good instead of like so many warmed-over anthems. One of the many suddenly vivid lines that pop up throughout, from "Canada Day": "She had a great view/but that only counts for the non-blind."

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