In a previous, improbable life, Matthew Dear wrote “Hands Up For Detroit“, a small vocal phrase of which wound up serving as the backbone of the mother of all exercise anthems. Then he flirted with virtually every kind of music he loved, topping all he’d done before with 2010’s Black City, a sleazy slice of downtempo minimalism with a spiritual debt to Bowie’s Low (profile).
This year, he returns with the long-player Beams, which is preluded by the Headcage EP. The title track (see above) takes the noirish, oily grooves of Black City and gently sculpts them into something more softly polyphonic. The song bounces and trots where it might previously have oozed. The beat is more muffled too, a step away from the clattering, misfiring drum machines of old. And Dear’s vocals—always the Marmite factor in his work—are, while still digitally ameliorated, there to invoke a very different mood. The smearing lead voice is backed up a ghostly beatbox more in the vein of some of the songs on 2007’s Asa Breed.
In the final third, a synth patch not dissimilar to Fever Ray’s ethnic flutes  plays a lead riff which provides a brief and subtle nod to rave. All too soon, it vanishes, and the breathy outro makes sure the take-home message is a sensual one.