Compassion cover

Compassion

Released

Matthew Barnes’ vision of club music isn’t just holistic genre-wise — you can hear two-step, techno, and breakbeat in its rhythmic structure, and a spectrum from ambient’s immersive clarity to dub’s reverberating decay — but chronologically. Compassion evokes the cutting edge post-Burial atmospherics of late-’10s conceptual dance music but makes it all sound like it was created with instruments and components that predate the analog era, much less the digital, even if the fragmented voices, liquid string sections, and tactile, organic drum beats cohere in a way that only electronic manipulation can really accomplish. And while its mood is caught up in the tumult of anxiety and despair — “Panic” and “Vandalism” sound like attempts to stifle catharsis in solitude; “The Highest Flood” and “Exalter” could be hymns or war cries — it’s too given to unexpected turns of beauty, especially in late-peak purple dubstep reduction “Raw Language,” to feel unremitting. Just like the cover art’s depiction of a man bracing himself beneath a rock nearly as big as he is, it’s a matter of perspective as to whether the emotional bluntness of this music will weigh you down or strengthen you. But the directness of its melancholic intensity and the jolts that come from its flashes of possibility for warmth and hope are thrilling.

Nate Patrin

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