- As varied as Mathew Jonson's back catalogue is, it's clear that he's most comfortable when he's on meandering journeys with modulating synth lines and strange, ethereal harmonies. He's so good at this, in fact, that many of his fans are disappointed when he strays elsewhere. ("Stop" being a prime example.) That said, he does stray elsewhere quite often. Jonson can be prone to "weirding up" tracks with odd lines just for the sake of being subversive. Although some might see this as self-indulgence, it's more accurate to call it a producer finding his way and experimenting with new ideas.
With this in mind, I was expecting Jonson's debut album to reflect some of his more recent material, largely occupying new territories with a slightly awkward unfamiliarity. But Agents of Time is apparently not the place for practicing. Instead, it's full of winding hypnotism, evolving structures and hooks that are immediate and familiar, yet completely alien.
The downtempo tracks exhibit this best: quiet counterpoint plays off against trippy programming in "New Model Robots," repetitive but with gentle variations; music whose drift-off potential has few equals. "Marionette" is hiding shyly behind a corner here in its earlier form, blippier and more restrained. The only time when he really does stray from a straight beat and presents something unexpected, to good effect, is the album's title track, which is similar to "Twin Cobras" with its off-kilter rhythmic experimentation and dysfunctional aesthetic.
Although most of this would probably best be suited to a cosy evening in with a bag of Marrakesh export, there are a few upbeat numbers, especially towards the beginning. The covert spy-cool of "Thieves in Digital Land" aside, there's too much brashness here for my liking. I'm sure it would be effective on wax, but Jonson hasn't found his feet in funk disco just yet. For the most part though, you won't find club smashers. There's more placid simplicity than we're used to, something that comes with a heightened accessibility and less twisted variation. Some people might find this boring. Not me. I could meditate to the mournful fantasy of "When Love Feels Like Crying" or the simple honesty of "Love in the Future" for hours. Although some of his tracks approach perfection, Jonson himself isn't perfect, and neither is Agents of Time; it's a rough gem, but a gem nonetheless.
01. Love in the Future
02. Girls Got Rhythm
03. Thieves in Digital Land
04. Sunday Disco Romance
05. Marionette (the beginning)
06. Night Vision
07. Pirates in the 9th
08. New Model Robots
09. When Love Feels Like Crying
10. Agents of Time