MATT ELLIOTT: The Broken Man (Ici D’Ailleurs)


Posted on Feb 16th 2012 01:37 am

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Matt Elliott: The Broken Man

The Broken Man
Ici D’Ailleurs 2012
07 Tracks. 46mins33secs

Amazon UK: CD | LP | DLD US: CD | DLD Boomkat: DLD iTunes: DLD Spotify: STRM

Matt Elliott first rose to fame as The Third Eye Foundation, a project he started in the mid nineties. He published his first album, Semtex, in 1996 on his own imprint before joining Domino a year later. For the next five years, he continued to work under that moniker, releasing three more albums between 1997 and 2000, and a collection of remixes of tracks by artists as diverse as Yann Tiersen, Tarwater or Blonde Redhead, in 2001. In 2003, Elliott’s work shifted to a much more personal level with The Mess We Made, an album of bleak, feverish folk which was followed by an even darker album trilogy, starting with Drinking Songs (2005), and Failing Songs (2006) and which concluded with Howling Songs (2008).

Sonically more stripped down than its predecessors, and increasingly filled with echoes of eastern European folk music, to which he adds Hispanic flavours, especially on opening tracks Oh How We Fell, Please Please Please, or later The Pain That’s Yet To Come, The Broken Man marks the opening of a new chapter in Elliott’s work. But, if his sonic palette is more restraint, or distributed differently, this album remains as sombre and haunting a piece of work as any of his previous records. The acoustic guitar dominates pretty much throughout, with the exception of the complex epic If Anyone Tells Me ‘It’s Better To Have Loved And Lost Than Not To Have Loved At All’ I Will Stab Them In The Face, which started out from a piano improvisation by Katia Labèque. The piano etches here a particularly deep cut into the emotional fabric of Elliott’s work, mirrored at times by his soft silky vocal tones or graced with the delicate earthy touches of a violin. In its latter part, chilling wolf howls can be heard rising in the distance, adding an unsettling touch to an already pretty emotionally charged piece.

Elliott has an interesting way to create atmospheres out of deceptively simple structures. Oh How We Fell appear at first to be based around acoustic guitar and voice, but closer listens reveal the distant echo of a fuller orchestral scope, which almost sounds as if it had nothing to do with the song itself, as if Elliott had used an old cassette tape and recorded over whatever was originally there, his bare instrumentation letting some of the old music filter through still. This ghostly shadow remains stuck away for the duration of the piece but seems to gain intensity at key moments before withdrawing again. In the dying minutes of the piece however, the full orchestral scope of the piece is brought to the surface as Elliott’s voice disappears amidst the collapse of the whole structure. The use of a string quartet gives Dust Flesh And Bones a more potent feel, but here again, this aspect is kept partially hidden through the first half of the piece. The second half however builds up momentum against a stark backdrop of strings, choirs and dense textural sound forms.

Elliott alternates between long, free-flowing epic songs and much more condensed pieces on this album, but even when constrained to a couple of minutes, he ensures that the intensity of the music remains untouched. Slightly more developed, yet still clocking at under four minutes, This Is For and The Pain That’s Yet To Come appear so densely packed that one would be forgiven for thinking that they were sprawling considerably more.

If this new album, his fifth, denotes a slight shift in Matt Elliott’s deeply fascinating canon, it doesn’t mark a significant departure from his previous solo recordings. Elliott has developed a very particular style which has his unsettling folk resonate with despair and decay, but these are offset by powerful uplifting undercurrents, often characterised by sweeping melodies and orchestrations, which give his work its incredible density. The Broken Man is no exception, and to unveil its many layers requires patience and dedication, but the rewards are plentiful and long-lasting.


Matt Elliott | Ici D’Ailleurs
Amazon UK: CD | LP | DLD US: CD | DLD Boomkat: DLD iTunes: DLD Spotify: STRM

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