Sunday, November 6, 2011

Mattress - Eldorado on Malt Duck Records

"I found a reason to live." Rex Marshall of Mattress says on the first track of Eldorado, and I'm inclined to believe this theatrical character, even if it comes off as desperate, I think at least he has convinced himself for the moment, despite the cold, bleak way he's chosen to express it.
Although this was released back in '06 as a CDR, it's very related to Dirty Beaches, with that same kind of combination of vocal abandon, weirdo soul, and blues yelps.
There's definitely a backwoods country soul living in these songs full of paychecks and pawnshops...that monotonous beat shares the same overcompensation for mechanics as Dirty Beaches does, and instead of a lost in translation reinterpretation of southern rockabilly Elvis, Mattress explores a John Waters character, reveling in pure weirdo and pushing the boundaries of taste....both of which owe a lot to Suicide for starting this apocalypse in the first place.

The title track, "Eldorado" has a creepy warbly howl vocal that could even go back to a Cramps, TV on the Radio hybrid and the specific outsider choices they make. He's sounding sweaty, weighted down with chains, (probably not gold, since he's really looking forward to his discovery), drives an old rusty cadillac and probably owns that stip club on the edge of town that no one has ever been to. The thing is he's convincing you of all this seedy underbelly with instrumentation that would never normally sound like back alleys and smoke filled OTB's, minimal electronics aren't exactly tools for this kind of bleak realism...but then, oh yea, don't forget Joy Division.
He sounds desperate to find that lost city where everything is going to be made of gold, with his vocal breaking apart...he's going to make himself find it. This delusion, that crack with reality sort of permeates everything and a distorted harmonica, which sounds like it's pieced together from samples is a great echo of
Like a loungey Blank Dogs figure where that crooning somehow adds another layer of creepiness. The digital mystery wasn't enough. Mattress is assuming that shadowy electronic world already exists and he's created a personality to perform there. A superstar entertainer within the bleak apocalypse, because I'm convinced by Mattress that they'll exist there...and that they'll be as idiosyncratic as this.
The B-Side's first track, "Got to come on" is using that Arise, Therefore organ fake beat, it's the halfhearted compromise to attempt to add some humanity to the proceedings. Here he is singing how there's too many songs about the bad times which is beyond ridiculous coming from the inherently cold, distant sound like this. He's thought a long time about how there's too many downer songs and this is a song for you? Who's he kidding? Still very much living in this self created delusion to the point by the end of the side he's belting out, "I've been looking for my people!" and it's a clear call for some freaky listeners who if they are taking i this last track, they've found each other.
Stephen Merritt says in "Strange Powers" that all songs are just rehashing classic pop sentiments and structures, that all the songs out there have already been written...just completely cynical. I have to think he's being just a little facetious, but it made me think about how anyone at this point could ever sit at home and say there's nothing out there for them... that all music sucks. Mattress is proof you just haven't looked hard enough. If you can honestly be bored by a playlist then you are just plain lazy with fringes out there like this.

It's an album that sounds great on vinyl by the way, like Trans-Europe Express, hearing those extreme, unnatural snare hits or... button presses in this case and an ultra low end thump of a cheap overcompensating drum machine, but with such insane clarity, it almost is psyche in that attempt at altering reality. I started to imagine this might be what it would sound like if the art museums put together a halloween album with Jesco White.
in Eldorado, he's describing all the gold dresses, gold airplanes, gold roads...never suggesting that there would be any down side to the fantasy. But I know if Mattress ever acheived it, this nervous, psychosis would be over, and that would be very bad for the audience.

This one is on heavy red clear vinyl running at 45rpm, $12 from Malt Duck Records:
Eldorado was originally released in 2006 on CDR – the very first release by Mattress. Since then, Mattress has put out a 7-inch single and two full length albums. Rex Marshall, the mastermind behind Mattress, is a Las Vegas native who currently resides in Portland, OR.

Eldorado is an incredibly minimal, raw, and sometimes frantic record, yet it some how creates a sense that hope can prevail even in the dire post-apocalyptic vision formed by its beats. This is definitely synth done raw – which is often times synth at its finest. Rex’s vocal styling is what makes this record incredibly unique though. The crony vocals, reminiscent of a gin guzzling lounge singer, reveal his true Vegas roots. He’s one of those people who dare to sing - with most excellent results.

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