Review: Mattress – Lonely Souls (Field Hymns, 2011)

This cassette from a mysterious one-man project by Rex Marshall, aka Mattress, sees the output of the Portland synth label in a more pop (or rather, something-wave)-oriented, concise form. It is one slow burner of an album, setting the buzzing, skeletal analog beats against the low-pitched, gothic vocals.

The songs here are strangely catchy and once we get through the early Peaking Lights level of lo-fi simplicity and murkiness, we discover real songwriting talent for nearly apocalyptic, frighteninly raw gems channeling the coldness of the 80’s industrial-electronic scene. In fact, the sounds on Lonely Souls stay closer to the unwelcoming alienation of cold wave than the relaxing New Age-isms of most of the synth scene. The songs here are skewed and infused with a sinister air, like a mutated, distorted version of synth pop, a post-radiation, disfigured monster waiting behind the nearest corner to jump on the unsuspecting synth-loving teenagers. Unsurprisingly, the back cover shows Rex Marshall standing in a labcoat on a hood of an 80’s Chevrolet with an imposing nuclear power plant cooling tower in the background.

Lonely Souls is a piece of warped, raw hypnagogia – but instead of recalling bucolic New Age or wide-eyed glossy pop music, Marshall here channels the gloomier sides of 80’s music, when the prospects were bleak and the skies were gray with soot. This is synth music powdered with soot from the factory chimneys.


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