It’s appropriate that Outmind opens to the sound of a crackling announcement: ”You are now listening to the awe-insipring sounds of Los Angeles.” Perhaps more than any of his local contemporaries over at Brainfeeder and Alpha Pup Records, the music of Matthew McQueen — who records as Matthewdavid — embodies the ever-evolving, staunchly capricious nature of the Los Angeles beat music movement. Outmind was released under Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder imprint, a label that’s fast-approaching Warp Records’ fabled status as supreme electronic experimentalists. McQueen’s unusual production style seems to have little to no points of reference anywhere; combining blissed-out psychedelia, gauzy dub, and heavy-hitting West Coast hip-hop, often all at the same time. The result is a disorienting, never straightforward, and always inventive record whose every second is, for better or worse, unlike anything you’ll hear all year. In a way only comparable to the mystic paragon reached last year by Flying Lotus’ Cosmogramma, McQueen’s warped beats and languid sense of ambiance seem rooted in some strange far-off world that’s far beyond words and, more importantly, goes a long way in forging its own path, pushing already very malleable genre of instrumental hip-hop to its outermost limits.
If you’re one of the few who caught wind of his stellar early work (see: the positively celestial “Know You’re Not Alone”) or one of those lucky enough to have witnessed one of his strange, cathartic live sets, the trip that is Outmind — while still pretty jarring — won’t come as a quite a surprise. Much like the collage-like, cassette-only releases Matthewdavid made his name on, Outmind treats McQueen’s affinity for memorable, thumping beats (as, on lead single “International”) with an ambient lean not unlike that of noted electronic texturists Fennesz and Oneohtrix Point Never; a rare sense of calm that’s a welcome contrast to hip-hop’s (not so) recent slant to all things musically immediate.
On album highpoint/centerpiece, “Like You Mean It”, McQueen makes the best of this polarity, lashing a glistening Eastern melody line and a gorgeous vocal sample together over throbbing bass while offbeat drums (sorta) keeps time and warm tape feedback hisses away, somehow serenely, in the background. In more ways than one, Outmind is that rare hip-hop debut that manages to take its time to get its word in without stalling, dwelling often without ever dawdling. Indeed, there isn’t a wasted bleep, kick, or beat to be heard here.
Outmind serves as a mark of the leaps and bounds that the genre, Brainfeeder and Matthewdavid himself taken over the past couple of years. For the hapless many to whom instrumental hip-hop is little more than, well, instrumentals to be sampled, chopped up, and/or rapped over, let this be the record to change your mind. Indeed, Outmind makes one of the best cases for beat music in recent memory: At just over a half-hour, it certainly doesn’t overstay its welcome, and for all of the LP’s mercurial stylistic shifts, McQueen never sounds uncomfortable or out of place. Album closer, the expansive “No Need To Worry/Mean Too Much (Suite)”, caps things off marvelously with a wondrously astral, almost cinematic, sendoff, leaving the listener immediately hankering for a sequel.