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The Ambient Pop of Michael Matera

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There are hundreds of incredibly talented musicians hiding in independence, their enthralling music overlooked by the bigger labels who are concerned only with profits and licensing deals. Michael Matera stands as a shining gem among these indie talents. His music is a unique amalgamation of contemporary electronics and vivacious pop, bridging dream and uptempo with such remarkable ease that he makes this diversity seem as if it were commonplace.

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Interview with Michael Matera

Q: Your compositions are a refreshing blend of lively sensibilities with dreamy textures. What influences have inspired you to create your music?

MATERA: My influences tend to come more from mainstream music like the Cure and Peter Gabriel. I enjoy how they express feeling and emotion in their work. Apart from the accessible influences of the Cure and Gabriel, I really wanted to make songs that didn't have the same structure as a traditional pop song, so writing instrumental music seemed like a very natural thing to do, plus I can't sing very well.

Q: All of your pieces are rather short. Is there some reason that you avoid long-form compositions?

MATERA: My influences and the music I personally find enjoyable are the reasons my compositions are short. Most of my favorite songs leave me wanting more, although making it short doesn't necessarily make it good, I find that the style of music I write works better in a short form.

Q: There's a certain ambiguity to your music, beyond its non-lyrical nature. How do you perceive the moods you're striving to generate?

MATERA: Yes there is ambiguity in the music I write. It usually isn't until after a piece is finished that I realize what I was feeling, or what I think its mood is. The addition of certain instruments and sounds completely change the mood and feel. This usually happens about two or three times as I write. I find my better songs are the ones where I didn't have any preconceived idea about where they were supposed to go. If I let the music just come out it tends to all work itself out in the end.

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MICHAEL MATERA: M (CDR on Neverwhere Records)

This CDR from 1998 features 36 minutes of lively electronic music.

Inventive guitars conspire with lush electronics to produce startlingly engaging tuneage. Delicate keyboards twinkle, each note glittering like falling ice particles. In some pieces, the percussion is softly muted to a remote background, contributing unintrusive tempos; in other tracks, the percussion steps into a more demonstrative role, slickly clacking with sinuous E-perc rhythms, but still retaining a desire to remain unpretentious. The basslines are expert at concealing themselves from obvious detection, but their sultry rumble integrally embellishes the music.

The guitar riffs interact superbly with the flowing electronics and the sparse-but-luxurious beats, generating soundscapes that are full of animation and ingenious verve.

Several of these tracks display a surprising 4AD influence, like voiceless Cocteau Twins. This tendency makes for an unexpected diversity among the colder, more electronic songs. At other times, the music bears solid comparison to the solo works of various members of Wire (specifically Colin Newman). Yet, despite these evident influences, Matera's compositional sense blazes with originality and refreshing appeal.

An uptempo sparkle flourishes in this music, saturating this contemporary electronic music with an agreeable liveliness. Although frequently different in tone and delivery, each song is like a splash of cooling water in a desert setting, leaving the listener dosed with subtle cheer and dreamy optimism.

This music has a unique quality about it, simultaneously (and successfully) striving to implement ambient and pop criteria. Few unions are as thoroughly rewarding as Matera's work.

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MICHAEL MATERA: Two (CDR on Neverwhere Records)

This CDR from 2000 features 42 minutes of delightful electronic tuneage.

Employing dreamy keyboards and heavenly tones as a backdrop, Matera elaborates this atmospheric foundation with lively electronics, sinuous E-perc, and various insectoid noises that attribute the melodies with a lustrous flair. Sparkling tonalities ascend to be peppered by delicate keyboard chords and crystalline textures. Guitars delineate these melodies with heavenly riffs that inject a seething tension to the relaxing flow.

These lush tracks possess a curious fusion of drama and leisure, stimulating and relaxing at the same time. Combining artificial beats of a vibratory nature with lilting textures of liquid electronics, Matera has achieved an inviting sound that is rare and advantageous with its enthralling charm.

The tone of these tracks varies from moodily ambient to briskly festive, but each piece conveys a resolute potency that transcends velocity or strength, delivering a tasty listen no matter which genre you prefer.

Producing tuneage of short song-lengths can be quite a challenge in electronic music, but Matera meets this venture and easily proves its master. The compositions are brisk and entertaining, compressed and direct-to-the-point. His melodies prove more poignant in this focused state.

With this release, Matera has added a taste of early-Eighties Cure to his Cocteau Twins influence, resulting in a remarkable mixture of omen and optimism that resiliantly refuses to be gloomy, exploring more uplifting, albeit mysterious, territory.

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