Matthew Dear – Beams (Ghostly, 2012)

I’ve been thinking about her in the mornings: I know I shouldn’t, but in that pillow-space between dreams and consciousness, where thoughts and feelings intermingle with little self-control, the fantasy runs away with itself. I know you’ve been there too: everyone’s had that someone they just couldn’t quite shake from their mind and indulged in tantalising dream-thoughts, innocent or otherwise.

I don’t have anyone to talk to confide in this, but it’s offset somewhat by the fact that Dear’s Beams seems to exist in similar fantasy realms of romance and remains a solid personal bastion of great music and teaching. Just take these few lines from the simultaneously upbeat yet bogged down “Fighting Is Futile”:

I don’t think about anything but you.
When you go away I can’t be myself because I’m stuck on you.
Try to oppress this dreaming of you.

If that’s just not goddamn perfectly applicable then I don’t know what is. This album is just filled with gems, not all of course resonant to my current predicament and covering more broadly the feelings of heart aches and breaks. This is 50 minutes of tumbling introspective dream thought set to dance music, and I love it.

For eight years I’ve been listening to the likes of “Headcage” and I dare say there are few tracks sexier than its heady calls to come out for some Saturday fun (your mother won’t care). “Take back what you need man”, he croons, “Let go of your sleep and you’ll find that all is great”, apt words, though tricky in these times of lockdown.

None is more potent and immediately engaging than standout opener “Her Fantasy”, awash with euphoric textures and buzzing, complex, exploratory energy. Dear sings monotonically, almost eerie recitations of thought bleeding through the emotional tumult around us:

It’s just one in a million hearts

That feels the way I do

Why don’t more people care? Why don’t more people find me valuable? “Am I not of great design?” he asks, “Do I feel love like all of the others”: does she feel the way I do? I think so, but what if? That’s the story of Beams, that “what if?”.

Take your time, make the steps, enjoy the little moments, embrace the mistakes, and get on with it. The fluid abstractions of “Get The Rhyme Right” drip out into ethereal synth and heaving guitar lines, turning into the stripped back and intimate “Ahead of Myself”. Straightforward and robustly restrained, we’re learning to walk before we can run here. Constant re-affirmation and talking it over are what get us through this sticky patch, choosing instead to play things safe and evince her of his good intentions: “I’ll come to bed with blood on my knees”.

Things continue to escalate beyond into the final triplet too, with “Do The Right Thing” opening itself up in vulnerable movements and cool percussion that yearns for reciprocity.

Close your eyes to look at me

I’m the world inside your sleep

And maybe it’s not right, maybe it’s not meant to work out, this one-in-a-million heart. The miasmic singularity of penultimate “Shake Me” collapses into error, obsessed with the time wasted over obsession. All that pointless time and energy devoted without consequence, “we’ve got it wrong”, the risk of commitment beyond the dream. When will it be right, how will I know?

There’s a safety in fantasy of course, but where there is no risk there’s no motion, no growth.  I’ve been listening to Beams for eight years, have I still learnt nothing?

Time to go back to sleep.