Among the many projects and bands to emerge amid the turmoil of 2020 is Matte Blvck, with the trio’s I’m Waving, Not Drowning debut serving as a darkly atmospheric soundtrack to dark times. With Alex Gonzales, Bidi Cobra , and Daniel Corrales having served in such bands as Julien-K, The New Division, Moving Units, and more, it’s no surprise that the album bears the polish and refinement of a veteran act, each song a carefully constructed blend of saccharine melodic hooks, tight and danceable beats, and earnestly emotive vocals.
There are singles like “Monumental” as its heavy snare hits and shrill keyboard swells underscore darkly soulful vocals, the gritty “Bare” with its vibrant blend of post-industrial synthpop and an almost punklike acerbic energy, or “Pure” with its bouncy synth arpeggios and warm pads that bear an almost ‘80s synthwave vibe as the breathy vocals and stuttering background effects amid a pumping beat recall the bleakly sensuous feel of Depeche Mode’s Black Celebration. Oh, fancy that… there is, in fact, a very faithfully rendered cover of “Stripped” from that very album, while “Western Fold” begins the album with an almost erotic cyberpunk vibe, its heavily percussive intro leading into crooning vocal hooks pleading that “All I need is a miracle.” Other songs like the instrumentals “Panic Room” and “Casa Blanca” are even more evocative of a dystopian future, especially the latter track with its metallic percussive effects and distant samples belying the inviting beauty of the piano, while “Rye Fire” concludes the album in almost disturbing fashion as its synth loops and aggressive beats feel like a slow breakdown of one’s faculties, the grim keyboard howls and resonant pianos mirroring the despair of the lyrics.
The band’s name, the artwork, the album’s overall ambience – everything evokes the trepidation and fear of impending apocalypse, and some might struggle to find some faint glimmers of light to guide one back to hope… but that’s not to say the album is hopeless; on the contrary, a record like I’m Waving, Not Drowning might just alleviate the isolation, knowing that we are not treading the pain alone.