(New Album Review) Matthew Mercer- Supernatant

Criminally overlooked electronic producer Matthew Mercer has been putting out dynamite for over a decade both under his own name and as one half of the electro-pop duo Microfilm. Even considering the impressive level of quality that can be seen in his numerous techno productions up to this point, his new release Supernatant is a truly jaw-dropping tour-de-force– nearly an hour of mind-bending soundscapes. And to think that for more than half of his career, Matthew was laboring right here in Portland, my town (Ohio-raised Mercer relocated here from Chicago some years ago).

A classically trained musician on piano and organ, Mercer has oscillated back and forth from pulsing, angular techno to more experimental work. What strikes me about Supernatant is the sustained attack of this record– an ever-expanding horizon of tense, spookily beautiful cosmic drones.  These immaculately layered and planned pieces have a nonetheless aggressive edge– take, for instance, how the watery ambience of “Somnabulism” lulls you in… only to shatter  into broken shards of white noise and disembodied, wailing strings at the halfway point. The atmosphere of this record certainly shows the influence of modern art music.

This is without a doubt one of the strongest releases that could be grouped as “dark ambient” this year…particularly because it is so dynamic and unpredictable. To put it bluntly, I find this record to have such a powerful pull on me because it’s a rare example of a bleak, spooky ambient record that genuinely has some tricks up its sleeves– be they the growling drone that starts us off on “Backsliding”, the ghostly feedback squeal on “Sensorium”, or the flute on “Hive Mind”, the track on which the record’s powerful aura of fear and mystery surely reaches its apex. A minor masterpiece.

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