Having followed Matthew E. White since the release of Fresh Blood in 2015, I am learning more and more about his tendency to collaborate with artists. Notably him and Lonnie Holley are releasing Broken Mirror: A Selfie Reflection, due April 9th through Spacebomb/Jagjaguwar. Combining White’s compositions with Holley’s lyrics and vocals, Broken Mirror: A Selfie Reflection is a trippy, experimental record that establishes and places us well and truly in the digital era.
In November 2018, Matthew E. White wanted to reinvent his approach to song-writing, at least for a session. White assembled a trusted posse of seven musicians in Richmond’s Montrose Recording, one of his favourite spaces in the city, and directed the septet through a series of loose, largely gestural compositions. The sounds were locking into his expectations, keyboards and guitars juxtaposed to develop a four-piece rhythm section but this didn’t quite work for the record he was working on, and thereby it was shelved until the right muse arrived.
That, turns out, was Lonnie Holley, whose vocals worked a wonder for these compositions. The result – the five-track records Broken Mirror: A Selfie Reflection, which is a looping, experimental trip that evokes the digital era. Funky, electronic and repetitive with socially critical lyrics to set the date and time, White and Holley have juxtaposed unexpected vastly differing styles to create this unique sound, one which trips you and sits with you for some time after the listen.
Holley and White may seem like unlikely collaborators, divided as they are by decades, disciplines and influences. Whilst both are obviously from very different backgrounds and processes there is no doubting that this collaboration works. Stretching his commanding soulful voice across the little symphonies of strings, horns, choirs, and percussive cavalcades, White’s sounds seemingly have just the space for the noise of Holley. It’s a brilliant match.
And it’s obvious through the listens that despite there being vast differences there are very clearly things that loop them together with their style, genre and inspiration. Having previously jammed with Holley in 2019 with his Richmond posse, there were overlaps and they have clearly been on each other’s radar. It’s not until Broken Mirror that we could all see this slotting into place like shards of unchipped glass.
After dusting off those shelved sounds to let Holley listen to these with intent, White could envisage them with a dub sensibility, wrapping psychedelic trippy textures around thick rhythms to enhance and cradle them for Hollie’s unique vocals. As a result the five tracks are groovy reflection, Holley crooning grievances and observations above surrealist sounds so heavy and repetitive that the words smack you in the face. I’m Not Tripping is an anthem of self-worth and self-enjoyment for a society mired in self-doubt, the words breaking like light beams through clouds of atomized drums and synths. And with Broken Mirror there is a satirical edge as Holley observes the narcissism with Instagramming throughout this track. The opener, however, This Here Jungle of Moderness/Composition 14, is the standout track, perhaps for its initial throes of the unexpected, stunningly setting the tone for this jazz fused record. Broken Mirror: A Selfie Reflection combines brilliantly individual compositions with soulful utterances noting our current existence, an eclectic jungle of sounds.
Broken Mirror: A Selfie Reflection will be available to pre-order on vinyl, CD and digitally from 9th April. Pre-order here.