The object clasped by the mysterious figure (a rollerball-playing ninja?) on the cover of Matthewdavid’s latest release is a clue to what we can expect: it’s a Dr Sample from BOSS, who helpfully describe it as a “compact, easy-to-use portable phrase sampler… anytime, anyplace.” If you’ve got the urge to put together a beat or a loop and you’ve got some source materials then this will transform your ideas into gold (in theory). It looks, therefore, like this is Matthewdavid’s weapon of choice for Time Flying Beats, an excellent compilation of beats released on his own Leaving Records, and given the chopped up elements of some very familiar songs, it sounds like Dr Sample was on call at all times.
It’s a bit of a departure from his more recent work, which has been as Matthewdavid’s Mindflight, a sort of tribute to New Age private pressings of the 80s which indulged in lengthy synthy meanderings give titles along the lines of “Venusian Sunset” and “Elven Invitation”. But the Mindflight records themselves were a bit unexpected after In My World, a melange of beats and words (both sung and rapped) on Brainfeeder. It seems that Matthewdavid is happy to flit from one genre to the next, and formats his releases to suit the music – Mindflight’s 2016 Trust the Guide and Glide is clearly made to be a double vinyl album, Roger Dean-esque cover and all, and that’s what it was released as. Time Flying Beats is a limited release on tape, because that’s how tracks used to be distributed (don’t worry, both releases are available digitally).
Pressing the play button, we’re clearly on familiar ground straightaway – “Time Flying” uses chunks of a tune that is a still radio stalwart, and it sounds great, enough for me to dig out my copy of Songs From The Big Chair, anyways. There’s a couple of other recognisable samples on Time Flying Beats but I imagine the majority of the work here stems from some serious crate-digging or is generated by Matthewdavid’s own musical output. A lot of producers put together these little 90 second tracks in the hope of catching the ear of MCs, but I haven’t heard much recently that’s as consistently inventive as this release: there’s a playful quality to it, and a lightness of touch to the arrangements. The beats are airy and graceful rather needing to carry the music.
In its own way, Time Flying Beats transports the listener as much as the Mindflight work is supposed to; the last two tracks in particular stretch out into ‘proper’ full-length excursions. “Secret Rooms Of Tokyo” dusts down a drum ‘n’ bass beat that retains its potency despite familiarity over the years (there’s some fine time-stretching going on here as well) and “Sailboat Voyage” drops the bpm for a sluggish workout over a supple bassline. These more expansive works are a good way to close the album, feeling more composed and atmospheric than the earlier tracks; arguably worth the price of admission on their own. This is an album that feels like it’s underselling itself at every turn (unreleased beats, cassette only, limited edition) but it deserves much more credit than that. (Jeremy Bye)