Release Date: Jul 10, 2015
Record label: Ghostly International
Genre(s): Electronic, House, Techno, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Club/Dance, Acid House
Like many people who live in San Francisco, Charlie McCloud Duff sees beauty in technology. His debut album, Homesick, concerns itself with a not-so-distant future where AI has surpassed human consciousness (the singularity), and he doesn't see the change as a bad thing. "The cool thing about the singularity is that it’s going to totally fuck shit up in the most beautiful sense possible," he recently said in an interview.
In 1978, Kraftwerk released The Man-Machine, an album that openly explored the intersection of humanity and technology. Nearly 40 years later, that examination is still underway, and the electronic-music community can’t seem to decide whether or not humanity’s ever-increasing dependence on technology is a good thing. Matrixxman a.k.a. Charles McCloud Duff is the latest artist to weigh in, and Homesick, his debut full-length, finds him swimming rather comfortably in these philosophically murky waters.
For his debut full-length under the name Matrixxman, San Francisco-based producer Charles McCloud Duff takes a stripped-down, dystopian approach to techno and acid house. His prolific run of 12" EPs on labels like Dekmantel and Spectral Sound consisted of club-ready deep house and techno tracks, but here he uses the album format to experiment and stretch out beyond the constraints of the dancefloor. The album is inspired by science fiction as well as real-life technological paranoia, most explicitly demonstrated by Lovecraft-referencing opening track "Necronomicon" (which slowly fades in a beat and acid squiggles over the course of ten minutes, reminiscent of Plastikman's submerged masterpiece Consumed) and "Packard Plant" (which is named after an abandoned Detroit auto factory and features clicking beats and surveillance camera scanning noises over very Detroit-sounding synths).
Sometimes versatility is an end in itself—you make different kinds of music because you want to, and because you can. But versatility can also be a side effect, an accidental byproduct of the process of honing in on your own sound. In his short but prolific career so far, Charles McCloud Duff has tried his hand at many sounds. As part of the club duo 5kinAndBone5, he produced the rapper Le1f's saucy, sax-driven "Wut".
For certain genres, context is everything. While there’s few limitations to the octopus-like reach of pop music, slicking its sticky tentacles through nearly every situation in which music is played, house and techno music are decidedly more singular. The litmus test for success is less global ubiquity, and more club-worthy spins. Though he’s shown himself to be quite the impressive hip-hop producer having honed his chops in 5kinandbone5, the group responsible for Le1f’s breakout hit “Wut”, Charles Duff, the producer behind Matrixxman, has become one of house’s most prodigious producers of the last couple of years.
The harder end of techno has had an excellent last 12 months, but few producers in the scene can match the upswing of Matrixxman, who went from nearly-unknown to ubiquitous in just over a year. A mid-2013 release on now defunct New York-based Fifth Wall Records was about the first non-subterranean sighting for Charles Duff, a quirky slab of house and techno that defined his early style before the kinks began getting smoothed out. By 2014, he was already on to Dekmantel and Spectral Sound, with numerous releases on other, smaller labels, and the sound of Berlin had slowly crept into his increasingly monolithic productions.