The swaying between lulling calm and startling turbulence seems to be more or less constant these days. From interpersonal matters to global issues, the only abiding notion is the unknowing; we try to balance between extreme ends but often slip and fall to either side to the lap various repercussions, rarely treading the tightrope in harmony. It’s not impossible however, things aren’t black and white, and even when in the throes of abysmal dreads we somehow tend to make the best of it and look forward to brighter times ahead. Granted, that particular train of thought runs both ways, but it’d be to bleak to preach about gloom and doom here, wouldn’t it? After all, we’re diving into some rather extraordinary aural dimensions next.

MXLX – the moniker in use by the Bristolian multi-instrumentalist and beyond prolific artist Matt Loveridge – is releasing his new album Apocrypha on February 5 via the wonderful zamzamrec, and I’m glad to present to you the full advanced premiere for it right here, right now. If you need an extra nudge to dig in, know that when you open the album’s Bandcamp page the first liner note you see is ‘solo improv for Fender Rhodes‘, which normally can only mean one of two things, but is this time both, simultaneously. So, get on with it;

The entirety of Apocrypha was performed with Fender Rhodes through Twin and Bassman amps, back in January ’22 at 7STU7 INVADA. The notes also made it know the tones were provided by ‘God and its face and eyes and breath‘ and the body of work was later ‘edited and arranged at home on wet catpiss futon in catastrophe void‘. That’s… something. Loveridge provided a few additional words about the album as well;

The record is 100% Rhodes, apart from fucked drums on the last track. It’s very important to be made known it’s Rhodes only. Apocrypha is all solo piano and sounds like there’s violins and gongs and pedals playing but it is only a piano playing by itself. I was there but who was playing who?

So now that the backgrounds are well established, let’s steer back to the music and scrutinize this momentous effort and hand. As emphasized above, a single piano (with one exception towards the end) somehow created all the sounds found on Apocrypha, and that’s fucking insane, honestly. Surely the amps and some editing/arranging work does wonders to it, but I repeatedly had to pick my jaw from the floor regardless, when thinking about that while letting the soothing ambient washes and devastating noisy drones carry me away to liminal spaces and forlorn places previously unknown to man.

I had no idea what I had gotten myself into when initially pressing play, and one might argue I’m even more lost now, though in only the positive senses of the sentiment. The mood fluctuates to great lengths throughout the album and proper dynamics are being put to use, carefully weaving vibrant tonal sceneries that vary from callous and distant wails to upclose, near-impenetrable cacophonous walls of sound. Some say it takes a village, whereas others merely need a single instrument and some willpower. As detailed in the opening paragraph, MXLX‘s Apocrypha is nothing if not a precarious balancing act between blinding lights and devouring murks. If you want a visual counterpart to go with that sentiment (and why wouldn’t you), today also sees the release of the music video for the track “Contempt and Kind Regards”, which you can view below;

“Contempt and Kind Regards” represents the harsher edge of the album with its powerfully brooding coma-inducing overtones that evolve steadily over time, whereas the lead single “Book of Judas” existed somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, encasing different tonal examples of the entirety. Pieces like “Ditch” and “Slow Blades” on the other hand showcase the more mellow, feverish angle of the record, being the type you’d expect to resound through the most sullen moments of your life. The juxtaposition between these ends is perplexing and demanding, even more so when you take into account the powerful synthwave-ishness of “Falcon Hazard Skyward” or the organ-esque “De-Knotted Gnosis”, both of which throw some more curveballs in the mix. While Apocrypha takes its time to settle down, MXLX continues the project’s stride in producing captivating and vigorous aural excavations, ultimately finding its home from your ear canals with a hefty impact.

You can pre-order Apocrypha through zamzamrec as well as delve into MXLX‘s previous efforts from over here, and do keep an eye out on the artists Facebook page to stay up to date on his various doings, which you wouldn’t want to miss. After all, its some of the most fascinating and interesting music I’ve heard in a long time, and while it’s still very early in the year, it’s easy to bump Apocarypha to the top of whatever preliminary album of the year lists are already under scribing.

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