Emperor X: Central Hug/Friendarmy/Fractal Dunes
Rob Levy
5/16/2005 7:42:14 AM

Central Hug/Friendarmy/Fractal Dunes {Discos Mariscos Records}

Chad Matheny was probably one of those kids in school who didn’t quite fit in. It’s safe to say he probably liked music much that was much different from the jocks or other normal kids. He may also have been one of those intellectual geniuses who was always writing stuff down and befuddling those around him. His latest disc, Central Hug/Friendarmy/Fractal Dunes flies its freak flag proudly. Recording as Emperor X, Matheny takes what initially seems as a congested murk of eclectic sounds and straightens it all up into something weird, yet charming.

Emperor X’s lies musically somewhere between Beck, Neutral Milk Hotel and Fad Gadget. His lyrics bare relation to the nonlinear work of Bernard Sumner or Wayne Coyne.. His songs are comprised of freeform abstractions wedged into sentences and placed nicely amidst a swirling backdrop of sounds.

There is no easy way to describe the album, which is a good thing in this day and age of prefabricated singers and songwriters. It starts off with “Right To the Rails”, an unabashed song heralding the glory of mass transit that frantically picks up steam and leads into the antagonistic “Shut Shut Up”. “The Citizens of Wichita” perfectly captivates the melancholy of Midwestern angst in under three minutes. A folky exercise in playfulness is next with “Raytracer”, a delirious post-punk elegy that is the album’s finest moment. “Ainseley” is a fragile postcard that offers a small peek into Chad Matheny’s lovelorn world, sounding at times like Pavement playing Sebadoh songs with it’s sprawling crescendos and whimpering vocal harmonies. The quiet is broken with the punchy and crunchy “Edgeless”, a song that rocks and saves the album form falling into a cavernous black void of somberness.


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