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Matthew Friedberger - Matricidal Sons of Bitches

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Artist: Matthew Friedberger

Album: Matricidal Sons of Bitches

Label: Thrill Jockey

Review date: Nov. 14, 2012

Matthew Friedberger’s Matricidal Sons of Bitches boasts surreal cover artwork, an immediately jarring title, and a distinctive scale — the album is divided into four long pieces. Friedberger has described his record as a kind of soundtrack to an imagined film (or series of films), and that’s a useful cue when listening to it. It accounts for both the majesty of certain sections and the way that certain incidental passages have a tendency to become indistinct. It’s a looming, collage-like work, abounding with both triumphant ear candy and more circuitous noodling.

While making one’s way through opener “Ladies-In-Waiting,” one can hear a blown-out grandeur, a sort of patchwork evocation of Pink Floyd’s “Atom Heart Mother Suite.” Soon enough, that gives way to a variation on that theme for crumbling 8-bit instrumentation, and then a kind of jazz-orchestra meditation. It’s both more and less jarring to hear it than that description might suggest; at times, Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother does seem to be a solid reference point, albeit spliced into an Elephant 6-esque tape-collage sensibility. It ends with church bells; is Friedberger nodding in the direction of some sort of pastoral themes? Maybe it’s a tour of different permutations of the pastoral in music. The piano and keyboard interplay that feature during “Expectant Fathers”: one part Paul McCartney ballad, one part lo-fi Air.

There’s certainly a meditative quality to this album, one belying the vitriol of its title. Drones and choral vocals abound, and large stretches of it proceed at a stately tempo, as if to spur surrealist imagery while walking down urban sidewalks or rural trails. For the most part, that isn’t a bad thing … but from time to time, meditative can give way to meandering. Sections of “Brand New Mothers” feel muddled, as if there was a particular keyboard sound that Friedberger and his group were overly enamored with.

Though the films Matricidal Sons of Bitches soundtracks are fictional, their theoretical existence does explain some of the flatter sections. Certain pieces might work well lending atmosphere to images, but don’t stand as well on their own. When this album blends Friedberger’s fondness for pop classicism and esoterica with a wide, surreal sonic canvas, it’s eminently compelling, but those compelling moments don’t always rise to the surface. Matricidal Sons of Bitches frequently dazzles, but there are more than few moments of frustration along the way.

By Tobias Carroll

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