There are titles on Reality Testing, like “Begin to Begin” and “First Born Seconds”, that give a pretty clear idea of the kind of experience Matt Cutler’s latest album as Lone offers. While the British producer’s 2012 LP Galaxy Garden soared on soft fronds through maximalist spaces, Cutler here incorporates some hip-hop focus in an attempt to blur the lines between our experienced reality and the brightly blurred ethereal. And while Reality Testing reaches out even further into superhuman space, the attempt feels weighed down at times by a zealous attachment to very human rhythms. Cutler seems to test out these new wrinkles to his sound, and this is just the beginning of that progression. He doesn’t quite find the stride into outer space he’s striving for.
Opener “First Born Seconds” cracks open the skull almost too literally, the high-pitched whirring that fuels the transition evoking a dentist’s drill as much as it does inter-dimensional travel. But that willingness to push beyond — by any means necessary — is one of Cutler’s strengths. Accordingly, those sounds transition into lost radio signals on the glittering “Restless City”. While that title implies a frantic, complex, technological world, the track stutters on a relatively simple bed, a toy synth line sticking out at odd angles. A sampled voice notes, “When I say real, I mean reality real,” the repetitions both linguistically and melodically pushing the “real” into something much more, while the track behind it lags at a very real, comprehensible lope.
The stellar “Aurora Northern Quarter”, however, opens up its structures into the exploration and expansion promised when you “close your eyes,” backed up by wind chimes and far-off childlike voices, a clacking rhythm pulsing all the while. The hypnotic “Meeker Warm Energy” uses those laser-drills from the opener more successfully, the crackling roll somehow becoming the album’s most straightforward song and the one that finds some of its greatest success in open spaces.
And after an album’s worth of mixing the expansive and the precise, closer “Cutched Under” embellishes the beat with an extra dose of New Age grandiosity, a step further into the ether, the beat undulating below. Reality Testing, then, pushes into new territory so well that it erases the possibility of its existence as a one-time distraction, and its few major successes lead to expectations of a more unified version.
Essential Tracks: “Aurora Northern Quarter”, “Meeker Warm Energy”