This album suddenly disappeared from Spotify a couple of weeks ago. Disaster. Turns out it’s being re-released today probably because of all the great reviews it’s been getting. Good news. This review was published a few weeks ago, but here it is again in a slightly revised form to celebrate the re-release.
Matthew E. White – Big Inner
- Indie-R & B crossover. A tempting proposition? In theory, probably not. But, in practice Matthew E. White pulls it off and how. There are plenty of R & B tropes. The horns, the female backing vocals, the skittery drumming, the sometimes funky bass. Yet this is no pastiche. Even when there’s a sort of riot going on – ‘Big Love’ being the prime example – there’s no R & B sound explosion. This is a quiet album. It’s partly due to the pace. 40+ minutes. Seven tracks. There’s no hurry. The songs are allowed to develop, gently shifting tempo as they go along. It’s also partly due to Matthew E. White’s vocals. They’re not quite whispered, but they’re always calm. Double-tracked, they insinuate themselves into your head. If there’s a flaw, it’s that the exercise doesn’t quite have the legs. ‘Hot Toddies’ ends with two minutes of experimentation that bears no relation to the previous 3 and-a-half. The near 10-minute closer ‘Brazos’ ends with the same phrase being repeated for just shy of six minutes. Yes, the sound builds during this time and you can imagine it inducing a trance-like state in some circumstances, but only rarely. A bit like Daughn Gibson’s equally left-field album last year, Big Inner doesn’t sound like anything else. And that’s the beauty. Despite the obvious early 1970s references, Matthew E. White doesn’t let the album sound like them or anything that’s around at the moment. It would have been so easy to give in to temptation and just let the funk pour out. That he doesn’t, but instead creates something so distinct is what makes this album such a success.