Matthewdavid wants to entice you into his clutches. He’s stripped himself of the fluidly psychedelic beat-swirls of his Brainfeeder debut Outmind and replaced them with the archly seductive lovesounds of In My World, where they magic the promise of a conjugation that’s been shorn of pain, disappointment, boredom, confusion, anger, and all the other little teething problems that normally threaten to scare two people away from each other. In McQueen’s world of dream-state R&B, anesthetized hip-hop, and rainbow IDM, everything is perfect, cocooned from the imperfect realities of egos and economics by the Angelino’s tapestries of numbed synths, beatific raps, and vapor-samples. But if this all sounds too good to be true and just a tad too schlocky, it might come as a relief to hear that the producer knowingly litters his constructions with touches and exaggerations that seem to undermine their utopian vows from the inside out and backlight their aural ambrosia as the illusory pipe-dreams they most likely are.
With opener “In My World” and its sequel “Cosmic Caller,” the idealized romance is very much in the foreground. Everything hearkens back to a timelessly nonexistent plane where love was as easy as PB&J sandwiches, the nostalgic pianos and flittering horns of “In My World” decorating such oily invitations as “In my world/ It’s paradise for you.” “Cosmic Caller” is similarly thick in honey and roses, its shining guitar licks and floating harmonies undressing themselves in front of lonesome women who yearn for someone to couple with on cold winter nights. Yet even with these kinds of love letters and the vintage source material they draw from, McQueen has sculpted and arranged them in such a way as to disrupt their more immediate and superficial meanings, with the disembodied reverberations, rhythmic micro-hesitations, stuttered percussion, and grainy textures of “In My World” underlining the suspicious unreality or obsolescence of the sentiments it relays to its hypothetical paramour.
This subtle process of self-deformation and critique isn’t particularly surprising considering that McQueen is the founder of Leaving Records (i.e., home to D/P/I, Ahnnu, and Knx), and it only becomes more pronounced as the album unwinds. “Perpetual Moon Moods” lathers the sampled voices of its nocturnal future-soul in echo and reverb, establishing an unbridgeable distance between us in the jaded present and its celebratory declaration of “Something’s got me so delighted baby/ I see your face in everything I do.” “Next to You Always” achieves a similar affect with a love-rap that’s rendered unbelievable by insubstantial gusts of twinkling electronics and down-pitched backing vocals, its earnest yet hallucinatory flirtations (“The fact is this rap is a fraction of what I can actually give/ And if you insist/ I’ll take you to a space of bliss”) reminding us of the sad truth that, in the 21st century, there are no vehicles for our most heartfelt emotions that haven’t already become tired clichés.
Yet we have little else to turn to, and neither does Matthewdavid. Luckily, he puts our common stock of language to instructive use: in “Birds in Flight,” airy curtains of noise and fluttering guitar lead us into the lyric, “If I hold you in my arms/ It reminds me of the time/ Everything was tied together/ Binded tight.” While such an image escapes the caricatured, predatory creepiness that infected earlier serenades, it and accompanying fantasies like “We can try and start to find the light inside/ We can only dream a dream that’s dreamt from the mind’s eye” still evoke the misleading notion of some sheltered, purified love-nest, and to that extent, they not only continue in the manufacture of a deceptive allure, but also arrive tinged with a note of deluded optimism, which only makes things more intriguing.
Moreover, what’s interesting about this optimism, and what saves it from being the simple expression of a hopeless romantic or slimy lecher, is that it’s bound up with the use of psychedelics and other mind-altering substances. Throughout In My World, the avowals of undying affection are often couched in terms of epiphany and transcendence, of finding the “key” to “unlock” your “soul” (“In My World”), and of surrendering to the “hours and minutes/ That allow us to get down with infinity” (“Next to You Always”). Hypnagogic motifs crop up in potential centerpiece “Artforms,” with its Delphian fingerpickings and exalted credo of “I’m feeling all the artforms start to blend/ I feel as if the world may never end,” and through this everything-becomes-one imagery, there emerges a continuity between the album’s enchanted sentimentality and Matthewdavid’s earlier psychedelic output, one that dissolves the purported dichotomy between the two. That is, the twitchy come-hither streams of “The Mood is Right” and the glow-synth quadruplets of “Singing Flats” course toward the same evaporation of self that was pursued by the likes of 2013’s Mindflight, 2012’s Disk II, and 2011’s Outmind, with the sole difference being that they seek to do so in the embrace of another rather than in the embrace of psilocybin or LSD.
This affinity between the altered states of drug use and of love isn’t new, but regardless, Matthewdavid merges the pair with an ingenuity that compensates for In My World’s often saccharine endearments. Yet even with this marriage, and even with McQueen’s adroit knack for revitalizing his antique appropriations with clever inflections and counter-intuitive structures, some will find the album’s often starry-eyed nature vaguely overdone, and it’s this more than anything else that will turn them off. However, for those who fall weak at the knees when the strains of R&B, soul, and hip-hop hit their ears, even in an idiosyncratically distorted form, the post-millennial quotations and evolutions of “In My World” will be love at first listen.