Album review: Pie Eye Collective – ‘Salvation’: genius future broken beat and addictive intricacy map a curious world


The Breakdown

If Salvation is the music of Matthew's brain, not only am I glad he's finally found the tools out here in this world with which to channel it, but I'm also hungry for more. Never less than immersive, there's a whole clutch of tracks herein which aim really high and bullseye, with the sundrench of "Hymn", the subaqua world of "Flibbers" and the almighty nuanced compulsion of "Assimilation" foremost among them. Surely be up there in the year-end round-ups, Pie Eye Collective is a world you'll want to reside in.
ALBERT'S FAVOURITES 8.6

PIE EYE COLLECTIVE is the solo project of Bristol-born, London-based sound scientist Matthew Gordon, who melds elements of ambient, broken beat, dub-techno and hip hop, all refracted and discoloured via a spectrum of tape-saturated synthesis; and thus makes a beats-driven and -occluded magical underground to immerse in. Sprite-like, enveloping, oozing with intelligence and devoted to a nuanced physical response, this is a dance music we need.

He recently remixed Rōnin Arkestra’s ‘Tempestuous Temperaments’ and has worked with modern jazz chanteuse Emma-Jean Thackray, who we last encountered in these pages on Scrimshire’s Believers Vol. 1, and Adam Scrimshire himself; And Is Phi; and Hector Plimmer.

His influences are many and stylistically diverse, and include Sun Ra, Morton Feldman and Madlib; but he’s also heavily influenced by much outside of music including mathematics, imagery, symbology or history. 

Each track on the album is associated with a specific symbol, which you’ll find arranged in the purpled room of the album cover. The title track connects with the lotus, which represents higher learning, higher thought and spiritual growth. The 9th Trump of the Major Arcana, otherwise known as ‘The Hermit’, suggests introspection, meditation, self-reflection and solitude, and is schematically connected to track 7, “In Habit”; while the symbol used for “Saqqara” is the pharaoh Djoser‘s step pyramid, whose design and construction is attributed to ancient African polymath Imhotep.

“The titles are important as they represent ideas and concepts at the forefront of mind during the production of the record,” Matthew explains.

“The music was produced using various types of synthesis (subtractive, additive, sample-based, etc) and a lot of processing to realise sounds that, thus far, I’ve only ever heard in my head.

“The tone of the record is heavily influenced by the sound of the compact cassette. Far from adherence to ‘trends’, the sound of cassettes is fondly remembered by many of my generation – for some it was the primary introduction to and means of digesting recorded music.”

A schemata of breaks, philosophical, arcane, even Egyptological symbolism, a love of the cassette, involvement in the vivacious scene of Albert’s Favourites; a music finally translated and reified from an intelligent mind. Sounds proper intriguing to me, must say; how about you? Shall we?

Matthew Gordon, aka Pie Eye Collective, photographed by Emma-Jean Thackray

“Gratitude” is homegrown, glittering future funk that unfolds in bright colours and then, partway through, crescendoes in sudden astral synth updraughts and drops into a unsteady, intricate jazz in god knows what actual time signature: 5/4? 7/4? Twelfty? The skittering rhythm that’s been busy underpinning seems to bear a close relation to the main riffing and harmony, but not, crucially, an exact one. The two together form an aural fractal pattern in which you can lose yourself easily, suddenly drop into the soundweb. So do. That’s the way forward. Normality is but a Stones Throw away, but that hasn’t been working out too well recently anyhow, has it? Bin that. Embrace this. Oh, and be grateful. Mr G has an intelligent journey lined up.

“Salvation” has that gliding, double-time expectancy of “Unfinished Sympathy” in its opening: stealthy, whispered, the beats just waiting to fan out and be their best selves. It keeps it reined in, a little synth vamp playing off the chitter-chatter addictively, a busy break dropping in more and more. It compels you to move, in a gentle, twitchy and kool-for-skool way. Watch that sudden drop at the end there; because “Assimilation” is many fathoms deeper. As you float down, bubble-streams of snatched, echoing melody lift past you; catch one and pop it, a gurgling bass, heavenly vocal resonances, some instrument fractured beyond easy recall and pushed out into ambient, chattering like a jackdaw. There’s occasional moments that suggests the deconstructed euphoria of The Orb’s “Blue Room”. A snare suggests direction for feet and hips. This tune absolutely begs for a small club and a devotional 3am rapture. An absolute belter, the conceptual dancefloor banger completely subverted, before you know it it possesses you. insists you move within it and it alone.

“Flibbers” features good friend, labelmate and companion in the weird beat, Hector Plimmer, as serves as something of a return visit; it comes from the same sessions that also produced “Stack” and ‘2 Minute Switch‘ from Hector’s 2019 album, Next To Nothing. A delightful subaquatic journey of the utmost sonic wooziness, it’s the perfect music for a disco somewhere beneath, say, the Med or the Adriatic; maybe staged surrounded by the fallen, broken pillars of Atlantis. It yaws, it pitches, and it absolutely cracks on on an old-skool roll of a break, with schools of bright overtone swimming through.

“Hector is friendly, dedicated, genuine, and a good friend,” Matthew says. “The track is symbolised by an owl, which is a nod to when Hector once appeared to me as an owl in a dream.”

“Djed” isn’t the Tortoise track wholly repurposed, which itself would’ve been a brilliant concept, let’s be honest; instead its a shimmering fragment of submerged deep house-meets-Impulse! Africa jazz, which packs a surprising amount into its slender 113-second frame. “Beta” struts in without further ado, bongo-polyrhythmic, caressed guitar chords afforded that slight alien detachment of the consciously looped, it’s as if Berlin techno’s louche and super-laidback cousin had popped by, all perfect physical grace and a winning smile. Again, it’s shorter than you might envisage, and the two together form a firebreak of interstitial miniatures.

But fear not, as brevity is dispensed with for the glimmering bliss of “In Habit”, which really lets it all flow in a quietly rolling beat, curtains of sound swooshing, creaking, burbling, sometimes guttural and always sensuous, a wonderland of sound akin to Future Sound of London’s Lifeforms; a whole other habitat populated by rich and strange sonic flora and fauna. It’s somewhere you won’t want to leave.

“Hymn” is the second of two collaborative tracks, and calls in the capable talents of MettaShiba, percussive alumnus of Gilles Peterson’s Future Bubblers, who brings a honeyed sunshine that propels it up there alongside other such halcyon classics as “At The River”, Akasha’s “Brown Sugar”, Bent’s “Private Road”; you know the sorta thing. A song for lovers’ bliss. Absolute, high summer sun, bliss. “Don’t be scared; breathe,” she sings, and it’s such simple and profound advice.

“I gave MettaShiba the track and asked her to write the vocal line using themes of recovery and finding inner comfort,” says Matthew. “The connotations of ‘hymn’ are secular in this instance, and about humanity appealing to the higher power within oneself rather than looking outward for comfort,” And are such lofty ambitions realised? Yep, with a marksman’s accuracy.

“Saqqara”, the track, if you’ll recall, symbolised with the step-pyramid, borrows a very funky synth-bass from some New York disco night, winds it up tight, and lets it roll among chic guitars, a huuge sense of space, a microhouse shuffle propelling things forward unobtrusively but oh so undeniably. We finish in “Yantra”, a pop-single three minutes of whooshing beats immersion.

If this is the music of Matthew’s brain, not only am I glad he’s finally found the tools out here in this world with which to channel it, but I’m also hungry for more. Never less than immersive, there’s a whole clutch of tracks herein which aim really high and get there, with the sundrench of “Hymn”, the subaqua world of “Flibbers” and the almighty nuanced compulsion of “Assimilation” foremost among them. Surely be up there in the year-end round-ups, Pie Eye Collective is a world you’ll want to reside in. Now: a Basic Channel-style, loud-cut 33rpm 12″ of this last mentioned, could we chaps? One we can be inside like, forever.

Pie Eyed Collective’s Salvation will be released by Albert’s Favourites digitally and on vinyl on September 17th; you can order your copy from the label here.

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