Formerly one half of 5kinandbone5, Charles McCloud Duff (aka Matrixmann) has come on leaps and bounds since a debut solo outing on Fifth Wall Records. After a productive twelve months with six releases in that time we’ve witnessed him cultivate a distinctive, analogue-heavy production style. With a clear affinity for analogue hardware, Matrixxman’s most recent effort sees the San Francisco-native bring several “classic Roland pieces” into his armoury, although this one starts off a fair bit brighter than previous efforts.
Opening with ‘Venetian Mask’, we’re immediately presented with some breezy synth textures. It’s not long before it’s accompanied by a swinging rhythm and some effulgent keys that make for an infectious hook. It’s the staccato bursts of iridescent synth that stand out though, each one feeling like a release of boundless energy, without overwhelming the more understated elements.
Running a similar line to the opening track, ‘Enter Me’ sees Duff deploy a sparkling, playful melody provided by some phosphorescent steel pans. It takes nearly two minutes for any accompanying elements to come into effect, when we’re met by sonorous drone of bass, with a marching rhythm not too far behind.
The second half of the record ditches the bright and breezy approach, with Duff exploring the bass-heavy side of Tech-House. Punchy and skeletal, he builds ‘Scimitar’ around another swinging, 2-stepping drum pattern, although here it’s closer to some of the early ventures into ‘UK Bass’ to emerge from the Dubstep diaspora.
Once you reach the the final track it’s hard to imagine you’re still listening to an EP that opened with ‘Venetian Mask’. Definitely the most understated of the four, haunting, subtle nuances bring ‘The Caravan’ to life. Wrapping the resonant electronics and prickly snare patterns around a static, driving beat, at times the final chapter in Duff’s ‘Amulet EP’ has the potential to inspire goosebumps.
Blurring the lines between Chicago House and concave Techno, all four tracks on Duff’s Amulet EP are simultaneously full-bodied and cavernous, but that isn’t enough to disguise that the second half is slightly underwhelming. Despite showcasing his versatility, it does feel a bit like two releases shoehorned into the same EP.
‘Amulet’ is out now on Spectral Sound. Buy it here.