Our Daily Bread 508: Matt Donovan ‘Habit Formations’

April 6, 2022

ALBUM REVIEW/Dominic Valvona

Matt Donovan ‘Habit Formations’

Through a semi-nostalgic lens and to a baggy, languid, synthesized throbbing and snarled beat and rhythm, Matt Donovan escapes the current tumult and lost years with captured reflections and dreamy moments of a better time.

Holding on in an almost hallucinatory manner to fondly recollected connections and romantic gestures, the in-demand drummer/percussionist turn multi-instrumentalist, composer and solo artist lyrically conveys both the personable and universal whilst still experimenting with a unique eclectic musical palette of influences from his formative years, on the follow-up album to 2021’s Underwater Swimming.

A continuation of that album’s Ibiza and dreamy haze of C86, Madchester, industrial indie and cosmic feels, only much richer, layered and broader in scope and death, Habit Formations is anything but habit forming; the ideas and music flowing freely, and often finishing somewhere completely different to where they started.

The former motorising and propulsive drum beat behind Eat Lights Become Lights and one half (alongside Nigel Bryant) of the psych-Krautrock-post-punk-folk-industrial duo The Untied Knot, Matt distils past sonic ventures with the sounds of the 70s, 80s and 90s. This sophisticated but dynamic imbued source of sounds can be heard brilliantly on the album’s opener, ‘Black Crow’. The nagging ominous feathered symbol of that song, shrugged off the shoulder on which it drip feeds an unending chorus of doubt and negativity, slinks in on a trippy dub mirage of Jah Wobble, Crime And The City Solution, BAD, Renegade Soundwave and Sensations Fix. Despite that looming harbinger of Norse mythological bad omens, Matt encourages love, unity and connectiveness all the way.

Already by the second swimmingly track, ‘We Learn’, Matt borrows Numan’s synth whilst spaced-out Johnny Marr flange guitar riffs envelope shades of Syd Barrett era Flyod, Andrew Hung and Karl Hyde on an exercise in unburdening pent-up frustrations. In a more new wave mood, ‘Dappled Light’ draws together searing film score strings and the Killing Joke in a corridor of progressive light. With a heavy leaning towards the German’s vision of new wave this time, the time-delayed drumming ‘Grasshopper’ imagines Moroder producing Front 242. 

It wouldn’t be a Matt album however without at least some Krautrock inspired offering. ‘The Focus’ finds our cosmic courier motoring with the Dinger Brothers, Camera and Minami Deutsch. Vocally this could be a languorous Düsseldorf incarnation of Mark E. Smith or Ian Curtis, offering less morose and more enlightened words of self-discovery.  

A pleasant surprise lies with the semi-acoustic numbers; the mentally fatigued, forlorn mythological entitled ‘Erebus’ (named after the primordial personification of darkness, born out of chaos) and the fireside evocation ‘A Quiet Goodbye’. The former, despite its title and lyricism, transforms from a wistful gentle rhythm and shakers accompanied psych-folk sentiment on the mental strains to a beautifully synthesized choral escape into Vangelis’s clouds. The latter could be a lost John Martyn or Mike Cooper cymbal shimmering rattled reminisce about holding onto those warm romantic empirical moments: “No need for conversation, just a loving warm hand.”     Matt Donovan’s new album offers a sanctuary in which to process the dramatic grinding gears of so-called progression, whilst holding on to the magic of a recent past now fondly missed.   

Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog monolithcocktail.com For the last ten years I’ve featured and supported music, musicians and labels we love across genres from around the world that we think you’ll want to know about. No content on the site is paid for or sponsored and we only feature artists we have genuine respect for /love. If you enjoy our reviews (and we often write long, thoughtful ones), found a new artist you admire or if we have featured you or artists you represent and would like to buy us a coffee at https://ko-fi.com/monolithcocktail to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.


2 Responses to “Our Daily Bread 508: Matt Donovan ‘Habit Formations’”

  1. […] Review from Monolith Cocktail […]

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