Album Reviews - Reviews

Lone – Reality Testing


Nottingham’s most colourful son, Lone, AKA Matt Cutler, has returned to inject our dreary, overcast days with some lush, strobing shades of fluorescence; as has historically been the case since his Kids in Tracksuits days. Reality Testing,Cutler’s – latest full-length effort courtesy of R&S records – is quite frankly a testament to the LPs that have preceded it. No mean feat, but Cutler has had ample time to hone his production skills that bend and shake the boundaries of house, hip hop and electro (with a pinch of jazz for good measure, of course), culminating in a sound which is so rich and dreamy that Azealia Banks had to have a piece of the proverbial pie. A fine slice it was too, Cutler’s ‘Pineapple Crush’providing the ravey backdrop for Banks’‘Liquorice’,pretty much making for hybrid dancefloor gold as well as throwing Banks’typically acerbic flow into some much needed relief. The man knows his way around a track, basically.

Well, twelve tracks, to be precise. Reality Testing sounds and feels like the natural progression from Galaxy Garden or Emerald Fantasy Tracks. Cutler, still managing to retain that sound of saturated synth washes and brassy chord stabs, has produced an over-arching atmosphere that is less rhythmically complex but melodically more focused and concrete. To call Reality Testing more mature in its delivery would be to diminish it; instead, Cutler has rather skillfully blended an at times more mature approach with all the energy and jerky euphoria found on previous efforts. Suffice to say, it works incredibly well and for those expecting to be whisked away into hallucinations of the block colours and sounds of a Sonic the Hedgehog level, look no further than ‘Airglow Fires’; a track which previously featured on the R&S 30 compilation as well as an example of the balls to the wall, youthful optimism that Lone is still able to produce. Its crescendo opening and angelic pads are complimented delicately by fragile, melodic bells, then whack – a synth brass refrain and a housey percussive shuffle are introduced in order to induce some serious jacking. It’s a track with plenty of warehouse potential.

‘Aurora Northern’ does something similar, but is more focused on the deep, rhythmic piano lines reminiscent of Kerri Chandler’s jazz-soaked house tracks. A little more downbeat, yes, and somewhat understated, it’s Cutler delivering energy on a slower drip, but retaining the airy dreamscapes that he does very well. On more of a techno kick, ‘Vengeance Video’ has all the subtle fury and grit of the Detroit sound, but, is countered with a punchy, compressed chord progression and an arpeggiated synth line. Paired with tight hi-hats and well-rounded kicks, it’s a track for excessively shaking one’s rump, if one were so inclined, which one should be. If dancing is out of the question, ‘2 is 8’ or ‘Jaded’ are beautiful indicators of the Lone who cut his teeth with the hip hop electronica of his Kids in Tracksuits outfit. Slow, peaceful and utterly compelling, Cutler broadens the album’s spectrum with these productions. Twinkling bells, deep synth chords and beats that lull the senses are the prevalent forces at play here, not unlike the atmosphere found on Portishead’s debut.

However, it’s closing track ‘Cutched Under’ that displays the propensity of Cutler in blending the fast and the furious with the chilled-out, jazzy sensibilities that dot the album. The disparity between the beat and the melody works much better than it would in the hands of someone less schooled in creating this brand of ethereal electronica. Reality Testing stands atop the series of Lone releases so far, and rightly so – it’s an excellent effort and so masterfully eclectic within its milieu that we would be just in expecting the next Lone production to be a masterpiece, a task Cutler shouldn’t find too taxing. Aaron Drain