King of Spain – Entropy

King of Spain

Rock n’ roll at an early age leaves one very susceptible to burnout. The saying goes “with age comes wisdom” and spending your youth in the back of a van traipsing across the states and sleeping on floors you wise up quick and possibly burn out even faster. In that time you can gain access to more music than ever before and the learning process begins again, the second coming of an education that began in your teens. It becomes easy to see how an artist who began in a noise rock outfit can several years later create a folk album. After the dissolution of Archers of Loaf, Eric Bachmann has created several albums of beautifully crafted songs under his own name and Crooked Fingers. Godflesh’s Justin Broadrick has since moved on to the more ambient, but no less loud, Jesu project. And after spending several years as the guitarist & songwriter for The Maccabees and Pohgoh, Matt Slate has resurfaced under the name King of Spain.

Taking cues from Bachmann and early Brian Eno albums, Slate has released Entropy, his outstanding solo debut. Looped samples of guitar, random noises, and even his own voice are the foundation for the 11 songs on the album. There are occasional snippets that are based in electronic acts such as Aphex Twin or Boards of Canada but that doesn’t make it an ambient album. By turning down both the volume and speed of his previous acts, King of Spain creates intricate songs, full of sincere emotion, released by adding pastoral guitar notes and repeating melodies at just the right moments. “Animals (part one)” is the defining example of this. As he nearly whispers to you Slate’s guitar oh-so-quietly plucks out several notes in the background, never quite forming a melody; it’s the old jazz saying of listening to the notes that aren’t being played. The effect is wonderful and perhaps makes for the best song on the album.

While “Cinco de Mayo” is the poppiest song on the album it’s also the shortest. This is a rare case as the songs are given room to grow and breathe and expand. More often than not the introductions will repeat with subtle additions in instrumentation, nestling in before you even realize it. While the words are important, Slate does not make them the sole focus. The lyrics are open to interpretation and in making them only a fraction of the song it allows for your own impressions to take shape and for your own memories to creep in, filling the spaces.

Entropy is no doubt a melancholy album but not one steeped in remorse or overbearing sadness. The undercurrent of hope and powerful emotion flow throughout like the samples bubbling under each song. It took Matt Slate 5 years to get back to writing songs again and while the wait was worth it his music is too good to be kept away for that long again.