Album Reviews

Matchess: Sonescent

The Chicago artist releases her Drag City debut.

There has been a lot of drone and experimental music that has been unearthed over the past decade. Lockdown has arguably accelerated output, too, with many artists provided the time and solitude to escape, create and chisel out compositions, not only for an audience, but primarily for themselves. This is the way it should be, of course.

Chicago artist, Whitney Johnson, has been releasing music under her Matchess moniker for almost a decade now. Having released the bulk of her material on Chicago label, Trouble In Mind, including Huizkkol (2020), Sacracorpa (2018) and Somnaphoria (2015), her latest, Sonescent, marks the first release for fellow Chicago touchstones, Drag City.

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Through her previous recordings, Matchess has tinkered and refined, creating warped sound worlds for deep listening obsessives. However, nothing she has released has remotely resembled the inventiveness of Sonescent. Two compositions clocking in at 18 minutes each, Matchess takes experimentation into new terrains.

As is often the case, drone is the central tenet on Sonescent, forming the backbone to these compositions. It’s the instrumentation underneath Matchess’ drones which provide something completely unique. In fact, the methods employed are – to these ears at least – something previously unheard of.

Matchess: Sonescent

Sonescent is like two different recordings melded together to form some kind of otherworldly meditative experience. The drone, recorded in one room, whilst the instrumentation, almost too quiet, feels like it was recorded in a different time portal.

With strings and lo-fi vocal cuts, Almost Gone is like the amalgamation of different planets. A soundtrack for meditation centres across the world.

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The aptly titled Through the Wall captures a similar vibe, but touches on the ideas of early psychedelia while harnessing the radio static, post-apocalyptic dread forever underpinned by Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

The composition’s ending is especially intriguing: think that AM hum with a Judie Sill song drifting through the house. It shouldn’t make sense, but it does. Again, it’s Matchess possessing an unbridled talent for pulling different worlds together and forming her own.

Sonescent is a recording essential for headphones and nothing else. In what explores the inner grains of sound, Matchess takes deep listening into a haunting new chapter. As far as meditative-inspired records go, Sonescent is some remedy.

Sonescent is out now via Drag City. Purchase from Bandcamp.

By Simon Kirk

Product from the happy generation. Proud purple bin owner surviving on music, books and LFC. New book, Welcome To Charmsville, available from all major vendors.

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