Gig review: Matthew E White, Glasgow

Advance publicity for Matthew E White’s music makes much of its debt to classic late 1960s/early 70s sounds, referencing the likes of Curtis Mayfield, Al Green and Randy Newman, and the ground they mapped between soul, country and funk.

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With his debut album Big Inner, released earlier this year, White also drew on ten years’ experience amid the distinctive musical melting-pot of Richmond, Virginia, where he’s worked across genres from indie rock to free jazz.

While the album has drawn high praise, White’s sprawling stylistic amalgam, abetted by a four-piece band, proved far less convincing live – first and foremost because his mostly hushed, breathy vocals were scarcely audible, let alone intelligible, largely drowned out by overbearing drums and bass, robbing the songs of the focal point and emotional/spiritual import apparently provided by his soul-searching lyrics.

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With White’s palette of influences also taking in Chicago blues, psychedelia, prog rock, synth-pop, stoner rock, techno and even a closing blast of metal, the sonic juxtapositions en route were frequently odd and jarring, compounded by a dearth of decent tunes or hooks.

Instead, incantatory refrains were repeated well beyond the point of tedium, symptomatic of the many numbers’ tendency to outstay its welcome. Giving White and his colleagues the benefit of the doubt, perhaps the transition from multi-layered, crafted studio atmospherics to the rawer demands of the stage is still a work in progress, but on this occasion there was precious little to merit those aforementioned illustrious comparisons.