MTVoid – Matter’s Knot, Pt.1


Piotr Mohamed made his name and reputation as an innovative musician in Polish alternative metal group, Sweet Noise. One of the musicians he connected with in the 1990s was Tool’s English bassist, Justin Chancellor. MTVoid grew out of the friendship and artistic passions of the two men and culminated in a debut album in 2013 that soon slipped out of the consciousness of all but the most obsessive Tool fan. Chancellor has an abundance of time on his hands as a member of one of the most dormant bands in the rock elite, so one imagines he needed little persuasion to collaborate on a second record when Piotr messaged him during the lockdown. A small clique of guest performers joins them to enliven Matter’s Knot, Pt.1. You have every reason to be intrigued if you want something different to your usual guitar-heavy fare.

Opening track, ‘Death Survives’, demands a full attention span before you realise its immersive potential. The electronic wiring of a brewery basement hums at you in hostility but subsides after forty-five seconds as Chancellor’s subtle root notes add a semblance of musical progression. R2DT noises reverberate like electronic crickets at sporadic intervals. You’ll rub your eyes after two minutes. A layer of radio static jabs its way into the gaps where no drums or percussion offer a closed perimeter of sound. Menacing one-note drones press down against the ambience like a surgeon’s fingers rooting through a lower spine incision. It’ll remind you of the cult 1995 album, Vakio, from Finnish electronic duo, Pan Sonic.

You can plaster genre tags onto this music, but none of them seem accurate or respectful. Intelligent Dance Music (IDM) is offensive. Electronica describes anything that uses a downbeat tempo with introverted electronic layering. Naturally, this art has a dark undercurrent to it. ‘Lilt’ is not the totally tropical taste we cherish here in Britain as a beverage. Instead of the Caribbean, we go to the Arabian Peninsula for the intro before the slippery synths and bass grooves enter. This is Nitzer Ebb compressed into the channels of a Leftfield song. Piotr sounds like a peeping tom spying on the pop star beauty in the recording room. His aggression levels intensify on ‘Propagator’, where the megaphone-with-needle-drop effects feel like a cliché from the 1990s resurrected for 2023 in the hope that nobody will notice the association with rock music’s brief obsession with The Prodigy back in the day.

The snares in most songs merge like mono beats doused in the sizzle of a frying pan. You might feel like you’re in one of those clubs brought to life in the Chemical Brothers videos at the beginning of the century, where everyone knocked back the Smirnoff Ice and dressed in expensive winter gear. Alan Wilder’s Recoil project is the closest musical comparison. Can you feel the heat intensify in the room as the decadent desires multiply?

Some might draw parallels between MTVoid and Venera because the latter also involves a metal superstar at his laptop (in this case, Korn legend, James ‘Munki’ Shaffer). But Chancellor and his Polish buddy show less interest in the dissonant electronic noise aspects. Vocals are more prominent; song structures easier to identify. Often, Piotr breathes down the microphone like Dave Mustaine possessed by a sultry goth sensibility beloved of German clubbers. A guest appearance from Pumarosa singer, Isabel Munoz-Newsome (see ‘Drop-Out’), casts her as a new Toni Halliday (Curve), ready to appear as a performer on cult side projects. Her miscegenated London accent falls somewhere between a boarding school elegance and an urban street language learned in the multi-cultural streets of England’s capital. Listen to the eroticism of those beats and the orgasmic pull of her enunciation. The basslines snake around the drums in slithery motion, yet the song ends like a drug-binge gone wrong, with one of the ravers in need of A&E and the others determined to hide their stash and save their careers.

Remote collaboration albums seldom receive this attention to detail in the audio engineering and production. The punchy bass parts and high-tuned breakbeats of ‘Scanner Void’ feel like they came out of a data processor. Piotr’s high-frequency synth loops could be from an Orbital album circa 1993. Why does nobody look to this type of music as the soundtrack to the gritty London detective dramas of the late 1990s? The vocals pulsate with a permanent frown in ‘MaBeLu’, before they turn angry, like a Harry Enfield stereotype with bursting veins in his temple. Think of Sneaker Pimps injected with the smoother flow of Boards of Canada.

Tool fans will be delighted to hear Justin Chancellor ruminate at the microphone on closing track, ‘Magmaficent’. A middle England accent enunciates the words in the manner of 1984’s anti-hero, Winston Smith. There are no drums here, but the simple bass shapes allow the ambient atmospherics to deliver the plural dimensions. It’s the most cinematic piece on the album and might even inspire you to start writing a journal again.

The thirty-one minutes here will fly by like the vehicles on the road outside. They never open their eyes to their surroundings until a traffic jam forms. Then everything becomes apparent for the first time.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 10/11/2023

Record Label: Lobal Orning Records

Standout tracks: Lilt, Drop-Out, Magmaficent

Suggested Further Listening: Recoil – Unsound Methods (1997), Venera – Venera (2023), Orbital – Orbital (1993)