Audio Mixer: Nicolas Vernhes.
On Beams, basslines that switch between prowling post-punk and slithering funk, along with slash-and-prickle guitars and bounding drums, inch Matthew Dear closer to his late-'70s/early-'80s inspirations. Dear's vocals are at their most expressive, imposing, and sinister. If kept to an inaudible volume, they could be used in a slasher flick as the mutterings of an obscene phone caller. When heard as clearly as possible, certain couplets, like the one that forms the teenage wildlife chorus within the burbling "Headcage," leave an immediate impression but are sufficiently creepy no matter their harmless (or just imperceptible) meaning. Despite the increased use of traditional instrumentation -- and the fact that some of the songs would be more suited for avant-rock playlists than DJ sets -- Beams is not worlds away from 2010's equally fascinating Black City. Dear's music still sounds as if it was recorded with cutting-edge means in a squalid bunker beneath scuzzy, terminally damp streets. Opener "Her Fantasy" is, at once, the album's most straightforward and complex song -- a simple four-four thump dressed with several elements swimming throughout to chaotic, dizzying, Moodymann-at-a-carnival effect. It's one of his most thrilling and detailed dance tracks, and there's some gorgeous shoegaze -- a whole song, really -- buried within it. The bass-driven grooves, including "Earthforms,""Up and Out,""Overtime," and "Get the Rhyme Right," stand out most, but the swashing "Temptation" -- one of those songs that would be out of place anywhere but last -- manages to be just as immense. ~ Andy Kellman