Release Date: Jun 17, 2014
Record label: R&S
Genre(s): Electronic, Club/Dance, Left-Field House, Left-Field Hip-Hop, Ambient House
The latest offering from British producer Lone, a. k. a.
When we think back to the headrush of vivid, maximalist dance music that surged out of the UK in the late 00s, the broadsheet breakthrough of Rustie and Hudson Mohawke will likely spring to mind first. Nottingham-born producer Lone, aka Matt Cutler, might fall a few names further down the list, but despite not necessarily being at the centre of the Warp Records revolution like his Glaswegian peers, musically he was right there with them, deftly lacing Detroit house, neo-rave, hip-hop and a neon laundry list of other styles into bewilderingly creative tracks that were as suited to heaving dancefloors as they were to darkened rooms and pricey headphones. Cutler’s journey through the electronic kaleidoscope culminated with 2012’s superb Galaxy Garden, a breathlessly inventive masterpiece that deserves to sit confidently alongside Rustie’s Glass Swords, released just a few months before, as one of the definitive statements of modern British dance music.
As his sixth album in seven years emerges into thudding-yet-nuanced existence, it’s safe to say that Nottingham’s Matt Cutler is nothing if not prolific. Yet prodigious productivity would appear to be only one of many virtues behind his Lone alias; this is, after all, an act with tacit involvement in Azealia Banks‘ skyward trajectory, Cutler having produced two tracks on the acclaimed rapper’s still awaited debut LP Broke With Expensive Taste. Indeed, Lone’s recent penchant for retro-tinted floorfillers (see: Galaxy Garden, 2012) has made waves on both sides of the Atlantic, perhaps most notably in the form of the glow stick-wielding, Shamen-like Pineapple Crush; a rave-flavoured shape-thrower later sampled by the aforementioned Banks.
In a recent interview, Matt Cutler, AKA Lone, spoke about his inability to get away from ambient. Reality Testing was supposed to be a slab of upfront dance music, but instead it morphed into something that's more astral than acid. Opening track First Born Seconds sets out the stall with a gliding soundscape influenced by the compositional work of anime soundtrack greats Geinoh Yamashirogumi (Akira) and Kenji Kawai (Patlabor 2).
Over the last four years, Matt Cutler has steadily established himself as one of dance music’s most exciting producers. The Nottingham-based artist is a master of indulgence, jamming his tracks with jagged, aggressive rhythms and glistening melodies. Cutler draws heavily from rave music’s more explicitly colorful side, embracing the all-out intensity of breakbeat techno and hardcore’s effervescent steamroll; like many of his contemporaries, he was barely old enough to ride a bike when those strains of dance music emerged the first time around, so his work as Lone is essentially a reconstruction, an alternate version of the past put together by someone who wasn’t around to experience the sound's genesis.
After his string of retro-rave showstoppers—"Pineapple Crush" and "Crystal Caverns 1991" among them—it was easy to forget that Matt Cutler started out making dayglo hip-hop. That influence reared its head with last year's "Airglow Fires," combining the showy 3D textures of his 2012 album Galaxy Garden with the shuffle of his older work. Reality Testing, Lone's sixth album, is also remarkable for its hybrid nature, mixing Detroit techno with golden era hip-hop, and replacing his usual sugar rush with the amble of a wizened artist.Reality Testing sounds like waiting room music from the year 2040.
Nottingham musician Matt Cutler mixes hip-hop and house on this, his sixth album as Lone. The success at the heart of ‘Reality Testing’ lies in the way it unites the grainy fluidity, sample sources and black music heritage both genres share. ‘Restless City’, for example, has jazzy chords and drums that bounce along like a J Dilla production at house pace, akin to the work of Slum Village DJ turned house producer Andrés, while ‘Aurora Northern Quarter’ mixes Italo house keyboards with boom bap beats.
Matt Cutler’s fifth Lone LP, ‘Reality Testing’, has two homes: One is in its pluggable, physical form. The other is in an alternate universe set some several thousand years in the future. Think Wipeout games, where streamlined rockets shoot through the solar system at the speed of light. Less fantastical than Fifth Element or any farfetched sci-fi flick, ‘Reality Testing’ absorbs fragments of the past to give a more accurate impression of the future.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Lone, aka Matt Cutler, has always had something of a jazz musician's feel for rhythm. His tracks aren't straight-up floor-fillers, but they won't tie you in knots either. Instead, they swing at an easy pace, baiting you into motion with lush neon textures and hooky melodies.
There’s a phenomenon called synesthesia where, to put it extremely succinctly, two senses are connected in an unusual way. This ranges from associating numbers and letters with colors, to tasting something when a certain note is played. I have a type of synesthesia where colors and sounds are connected. I have a sneaking suspicion that UK producer Lone shares my type of neurological weirdness.
There are titles on Reality Testing, like “Begin to Begin” and “First Born Seconds”, that give a pretty clear idea of the kind of experience Matt Cutler’s latest album as Lone offers. While the British producer’s 2012 LP Galaxy Garden soared on soft fronds through maximalist spaces, Cutler here incorporates some hip-hop focus in an attempt to blur the lines between our experienced reality and the brightly blurred ethereal. And while Reality Testing reaches out even further into superhuman space, the attempt feels weighed down at times by a zealous attachment to very human rhythms.
Partway through Lone’s verdant ‘Begin To Begin’ a voice asks, “Am I dreaming? Am I awake?” The question has clearly been playing on Matt Cutler’s mind lately. The title of his fifth album, Reality Testing, refers to a technique employed by lucid dreamers to work out whether what they’re experiencing is real or a product of their sleeping minds. Though Cutler hasn’t dabbled in the technique himself, a lot of the initial ideas for the album apparently came to him in his slumber.
We may be in the midst of a musical era allegedly afflicted with retromania, but there are still developments out there that somehow manage to feel fresh in this present day dystopia, filled as it is with £20 cheeseburgers, all encompassing state surveillance, and the ever-ridiculous Boris Johnson. One such novelty in recent years has been the rise of over-saturated rave, as perhaps best epitomised by Glasgow's Rustie. When done right, it feels like the equivalent of eating a kilo of weird chemicals ordered off the internet and somehow emerging from the experience feeling refreshed and joyous, as opposed to feeling utterly broken on a deep psychological level.