To celebrate the release of the new Gnar Hest album Void Rider, I decided to pick some highlights from Matt Williams’s previous musical guises. To call Matt’s output prolific is not only a disservice to his release rate but also to the definition of the word. So far this year he’s released three albums, one single, an EP and a compilation - and rumour has it there are more releases on the horizon.
First up then is Klad Hest. Matt describes the album Impaled Breath as “electro jams”. This is a pretty astute description. Musically, it’s psychotic soundtracks to video games that were never made. Fast-paced, action-packed and addictive sum it up pretty well.
Fairhorns' Satan Replicant was the first release that showed Matt’s vision and scope. While this is ultimately an EP, the four tracks clock in at just under thirty minutes. The sound is a lot more lo-fi doom noise than the prog electro mutant disco of the 2012 album Doki-Doki-Run.
After listening to Knife Liibrary's Drowners you think “YES! He’s bloody nailed it!” For thirty nine minutes it consists of downtempo piano, a bit of organ and howling vocals, with those goosebump giving eerie chants in the background. Matt describes it as “reacting against the timidness of so much acoustic music”. The piano and vocals were recorded in a café after it had closed. This gives it a haunting quality that makes it impossible to forget after you’ve heard it.
When the Knife Liibrary album finished you sometimes want something a little more bombastic, but MXLX's Go Away is the perfect follow-up. Call them companion pieces of bookends if you like, they do work well back to back. It’s a very acoustic album, guitar and vocals and not much else. Unlike Drowners there is dark humour that pervades it. While this isn’t for everyone it’s one of the most complete and concise albums that Matt has made. Next to Knife Liibrary this is essential listening.
While a lot of what Matt does is him sitting on his own in a pantheon of keyboards, guitars, amps, overfilled ashtrays*, Speed the Plough is him in a band. A really, really heavy band. After his previous releases the two Speed the Plough releases feel like anomalies but it’s just another extension of Matt’s experimental doom sensibility. Sadly the chance of new Speed the Plough releases is slightly limited as two of the members are in London and Matt’s in Bristol, but we all live in hope.
* This is how I picture him making music anyway
In March, Matt released a new MXLX single. This had the cryptic title of I Set in Motion a Course of Strings Over the Abyss and Let the Sonorities Bellow Forth in Dysphoric Jubilee. While it only contained two tracks they are possibly the most condensed MXLX tracks out there. The A-Side opens to the sound of knives being sharpened, gas escaping and faux-Gregorian chants, then it gets down to business. The B-Side is more ethereal and dreamlike.
Fairhorns' Fuckup Rush is looking like being the album of the year. It’s been three years since the last Fairhorns long payer Doki Doki Run. While that was a a Kraut-Prog mutant disco doom folk bonanza, this time Matt’s gone for a more electronic Motorik John Carpenter vibe. The music is hard and aggressive but the lyrics really showcase Matt’s ability to turn a phrase and write a catchy chorus. At first, the album seems random and jam-like but as the sleeve notes says “Everything is intentional”. On this Fairhorns album, Matt is starting to live up to his initial promise and releasing forward-thinking music that not only pummels you into submission but is enjoyable to play, whatever your mood.
The latest addition to Matt’s burgeoning back catalogue is Gnar Hest's Void Rider. Like with the Klad Hest releases the music sounds to be inspired by retro video game music. However, unlike Klad Hest everything was painfully and systematically planned out and programmed by hand. No MIDI keyboards were harmed in the making of Void Rider. This is another step forward for Matt.