Ninja Tune never release albums that are easy to review. They may have started as a collective branching the gap between hip hop and electronica but their label has expanded to release albums that cover such genres as rock, experimental, and avante garde. Stateless‘ sophomore album, Matilda covers all of those genres.
Stateless is described as a band but they do not really sound like a band. To give some perspective, the group does feature traditional rock instruments like bass and guitar but Matilda was made with the help of Bjork producer/programmer, Damian Taylor. Perhaps that is why the most apt comparison I can think of is comparing Stateless’ album as a mixture between Bjork and Dan Black. The album clearly has the experimental edge of Bjork but it also features the hip hop beats with overlaid pop vocals of Dan Black.
Matilda‘s best track is the album’s first single, “Ariel.” The track sounds like something from Punjabi MC with its hip hop drums and Middle Eastern sounding guitar sample. Laid over that is Chris James’ sweetly sung vocals that sound vaguely Thom Yorke-ish. For me, the vocals do very little; the highlight of the song is the drum programming and string sample.
Sadly most tracks on the album do not even have that amount of highlights. “I’m On Fire” is a meandering tune that is sparsely populated only by vocals and guitar arpeggios. The opening track “Curtain Call” takes forever to start and then once it does, it crescendos quickly into sonic noise that is both tuneless and headache-inducing.
Sadly, there are two or three songs on the album that really seem to be worth a listen but the rest of the album is mediocre at best. At worst, some tracks seem downright unlistenable. In interviews, Chris James has compared the album to a Pink Floyd album. The comparison is apt in the fact that both are trippy pieces of psychedelia but Stateless still seems miles off from writing anything as great as “Another Brick in the Wall (Part II)” or “Money”.
MP3: Stateless “Ariel”
Buy: iTunes or Amazon