- IDLE033 wasn't originally conceived as a full-length. Matt Karmil is a UK-born, Stockholm-based house producer whose quietly impressive catalog includes outings on Studio Barnhus, Beats in Space, Endless Flight and PNN. He released his Play It, Do It, Say It EP with Idle Hands, and wanted to team up with the Bristol label for another record. He sent a ZIP file over to Chris Farrell, thinking that the Idle Hands boss would select one for a new single. After hearing the 13 tracks, however, Farrell had other ideas, and decided to issue the entire batch, exactly as he received them, as an album.
It's easy to understand what Farrell was thinking. There are plenty of connective threads tying IDLE033 together. What's surprising is that those threads have little, if anything, to do with house music. Many of the tracks don't crack 90 BPM, let alone 120 BPM. Strange as it may sound, Karmil has come up with something that most closely resembles a hip-hop beat tape, and he's done it incredibly well.
With dusty drums, a subtle guitar melody and spacey ambience, "So" sounds like '90s Dilla or Deltron 3030-era Dan The Automator. A similar sort of sci-fi boom-bap colors tracks like "Skip," "Life" and "Blue," the latter of which impressively folds a ghostly choir, jazzy lounge piano and bloopy synths into the mix. A studio veteran who's spent years helping other artists sharpen their tunes, Karmil truly flexes his production skills on IDLE033. These songs, most of which are between two to four minutes long, are nuanced and stuffed with details.
If there's any connection to Karmil's past work, it's that much of the LP is drenched in a grey, dubby fog. For all of his attention to detail, he still prefers not to polish things too much. As such, "Going" and "Tour" smudge their drum loops with reverb and washes of scratchy distortion. "Drive" somehow instills New Age-y pads and funk bass with an ominous sense of dread.
IDLE033 isn't all doom and gloom. With its anthemic synths and nod to drum & bass nostalgia, "Feeling Drives Loops Hearts" kicks off the album on a raucous note, but the track quickly descends into a morass of clattering drums that's far more compelling. Similarly moody is "Wonder," a sleazy cut with a haunted post-punk aesthetic that brings to mind the likes of Forest Swords. The tempo picks up on "Freedom," a deconstructed club track that, impressively, constructs a groove with almost no percussion.
Karmil does some of his best work when he's subverting dance floor conventions, which explains why the album's closing volley of "Nu" and "Flood" is so effective. The former pairs an off-kilter electro drum pattern with the sort of nightmarish melody that usually blares out of the neighborhood ice cream truck, while the latter employs a broken hardcore rhythm, plonking video game sounds and buzzing rave synths to build towards a drop that never arrives. Neither song qualifies as a functional club track, but they both find Karmil at his creative best.
IDLE033 represents a major departure for Matt Karmil. Whether or not he returns to standard house templates in the future, the album proves that he's an incredibly capable—and maybe even more intriguing—artist when he's coloring outside the lines.
01. Feelings Drives Loops Hearts