It’s easy to talk about the “epic” quality of this or that record, its “cinematic” feel. And how many artists have you heard say, as Chris James, lead singer of Stateless, does that “I wanted the record to be like a journey”? But sometimes it’s true. Sometimes it just is true. Sometimes you have to hold up your hands and admit it.
Welcome to “Matilda,” then, an eleven track, fifty minute follow-up to 2007’s eponymous debut, which takes all of those easy words and makes something concrete out of them. Working with Bjork producer/programmer Damian Taylor, “Matilda” ties together classic songwriting with rhythmic drive, slatherings of sub-bass and enough electronic interference to satisfy the most anal of glitch-nerds. The results are spectacular. From the atmospheric opening of “Curtain Call” you know you’re in for something special. The driving bass of first single “Ariel” is followed by the sinuous melody and building atmospherics of “Miles To Go.” “Visions” features lead vocals from bass player Justin Percival. “As a vocalist he really is something else,” says James. “I think more and more Stateless will become a twin vocal band. Well, it is already!” “Assassinations” rocks as hard as anything on the album, kidkanevil’s heaviest beats driving it, with the electronic weight added by Taylor giving the whole tune real attack. “Red Ocean” functions as an ambient-folk interlude to clear the palate before “I’m On Fire,” a duet with Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond, recorded in her Brooklyn front room over a bottle of wine. “Ballad of NGB” almost has the feel of contemporary r&b, if contemporary r&b producers were bugging out to Bartok’s Hungarian folk songs and working with the remarkable Balanescu Quartet. This world-renowned string group comes into its own on “Song For The Outsider” when, in addition to a superb string arrangement, violinist Alex Balanescu finishes things off with a vicious solo: “At the end of the take the control room was just speechless,” James remembers. “Everyone’s jaws just hit the floor, completely astounded. It was mindblowing.” “Junior” aches with longing and throbs with out-of-focus electronica. “I Shall Not Complain” finishes the album back somewhere in Eastern Europe, piano combining with one of the most beautiful melodies on the record to take us out on a melancholy, uplifting high.
“I wanted you to enter a world,” expalains James, “and travel through that world, meeting different characters, and having different experiences along the way. Matilda, is obviously one of the main characters, but there are other characters too, in order of appearance, you’ve got Maria, Ariel, The Devil, The Assassins, NGB, The Outsider, Junior, and more, and all of these characters have a role to play in the bigger picture…” He pauses for a moment to consider the enormity of what he hopes he has achieved. “It’s like a strange and beautiful dreamscape,” he says. “It’s dark, surreal, mysterious, full of weird and wonderful characters. It’s a big piece of work. I hope that people get that, when they hear it. I think it’s gonna take quite a few listens before it really sinks in. It’s a proper album, it works as a whole. I want people to do the Pink Floyd thing, and listen to it from start to finish really loud on good headphones.”
Chris James (vocals, keyboards, guitars)
Kidkanevil (turntables, sampling, programming)
Justin Percival (bass, vocals)
David Levin (drums)