The Drum Chord Theory – Matt Martians
Releasing one week prior to bandmate Syd’s Fin, Matt Martians’ solo debut is a relatively unobtrusive mood-music companion to the poppier musings of his work with The Internet.
Riding the wave of 2015’s Grammy-nominated Ego Death, both of The Internet’s founding members have chosen to release solo projects in early 2017. Yet, Matt Martians has always been the second banana to Syd. It’s this qualification, and The Drum Chord Theory‘s close release to Syd’s Fin that makes the 41-minute mix of acid jazz, hip-hop, and R&B so curious.
Despite forming the successful neoR&B / trip-hop duet together in 2011, Matt has suffered the inevitable pain of being the keyboardist/producer to Syd’s lead vocalist. In terms of building a name for himself, he does so as the relatively unknown ‘producer-from-The-Internet.’ Perhaps that’s why his debut album cover sees him obscured by keyboards and a puppy, underneath a picture of Ego Death itself.
Lead single ‘Diamond in da Ruff’ sees the producer collaborate with Internet bandmate Steve Lacy for a hazy, acid-trip of a song. Martians slowly switches between two simple hooks, singing in a flat falsetto. Lacy joins him again for the album’s second promotional single, ‘Dent Jusay,’ alongside Syd herself. It’s a testament to Syd and Martians’ chemistry that it’s one of the album’s stronger cuts.
His flat singing continues throughout the album, paired with spacey pitching, heavy reverb, and close micing. It’s a disturbingly introverted experience. Over heavily modulated drum loops, thumping bass, and groovy keys – hallmarks of psychedelic experimental hip-hop – it’s no surprise that Martians justifies his musical choices in drugs.
“I’ve always wanted to make this album… I got the sounds from it years ago when I started taking acid—just taking myself through the journey of being one with myself and being able to sit down and make an album, because making an album is very hard. It takes a lot of things out of you emotionally” (Pigeons and Planes, 2017).
To his credit, the 41-minute album indeed feels like a journey down Alice’s psychedelic rabbit hole. Beginning with the relatively sane ‘Spend The Night’, within 10 minutes, Martians is using the sound of a door knock as a drum beat on ‘Where Are Yo Friends?’ before, 5 minutes later, segueing into a 50-second interlude about finding (you guessed it) some acid. Later, on the second half of ‘Down,’ Martians simply plays the first half of the song backward. Needless to say, The Drum Chord Theory is a mind-boggling, trippy listen.
Yet, the album remains statically weird, and often feels forced. Each song seems to blend into the next, one dense drum loop after another; while none of the vocal lines seem to remain memorable, or even stand out past their odd delivery. It’s this relative unobtrusiveness that holds the album back. Where The Internet’s strength lay in its addictively catchy chord progressions and melodies, The Drum Chord Theory comes and goes without much fanfare. Rather, it presents itself more as a 41-minute long mood. A hazy, acid-infused mood.
For this reason, Syd’s Fin will overshadow Matt Martians next week. It’s an album flawed by inconspicuousness, and one unlikely to stick with Internet fans for very long. And with a lackluster marketing campaign prior to release, it’s difficult to see The Drum Chord Theory as made for anyone but Matt Martians himself – an experiment in capturing the feeling of an acid trip. Yet, as far as debut albums go, it’s a promising start – one that hints at future success.
Check out the album below.