Review of Matilda Album by Stateless

Stateless are far from just another bland, guitar-based indie band; in fact, they're pretty much the opposite. Combining echoing atmospheric accompaniments and soaring vibrato-laden falsetto with the electronic beats and squelches of fuzzy, sample-ridden trip-hop, Stateless' sound is something quite unique and continues to evolve throughout Matilda. Also fusing neo-classical influenced string-led waltz feels alongside strong flavours of different global musical cultures, Matilda, their second full-length album, showcases much ambition, variety and determination.

During the first seconds of opening track 'Curtain Call', guitar and vocals emerge gradually from a bed of electronic sounds; Buckley-esque vibrato-laden vocals then continue to soar over heavily delayed guitar sounds and whooshing, meandering synthesisers. Later, when electronic beats kick in, the track suddenly chops from its' suspense driven, atmospheric, alternative-rock opening into a fuzzy, sample-ridden, trip-hop blend complete with a forceful beat. A similar unpredictable variety of sounds in former single 'Ariel' which evolves from a sitar-like sounding introduction echoing the blend of a different musical culture, to a hip hop vibe sounding squeaking and squelching synths and electronic samples then moving onto a much sparser sounding piano-accompanied section before snapping back to the hip hop groove. Even from the opening tracks, it's clear that the intelligent blend of genres and cultures is more central to Stateless' music than constructing strong choruses , for example; 'Assassinations' in particular emphasises that beats are intentionally more dominant than melodies. During 'Assassinations', percussion continues to dominate over the gentle suggestion of glockenspiel sounding electric piano, then the track sounds a gradual build of layers and noise before plunging into a fuzz-ridden, grunge-meets-hip hop break. The spacey instrumental track 'Red Sea' then provides contrast to the previous grunge-tinged noise with an electric piano and guitar blend loaded with echoing reverb which swells and fades atmospherically like waves of sound which eventually allow gentle picked acoustic guitar to seep through.

Stateless Matilda Album

The closing tracks of Matilda seem to build further and further upon Stateless' already diverse sound. 'Ballad Of NGB' has more of a cool, jazzy club feeling with the strings' pulsating rhythmic backings complemented by electronic beats. This is contrasted by the melodramatic 'Song For The Outsider' which further explores the strings through range and techniques; like superimposing Vanessa-Mae on top of a Radiohead-like climax, before dying out to a solo string section to contrast the preceding madness. The beautiful 'I'm On This' starts with picked electric guitar and suspension-ridden, uneasy, Radiohead-like tonality over which soulful vocals sound; into the chorus, the waltz builds with the soaring falsetto melody suggesting hints of Chris Martin softened with a gentle, warming vibrato and backing vocal harmonies. 'I'm On This' builds from gentle beginnings into something well-worked and powerful, goosebump-inducing with smooth strings and all. Later, 'Junior' continues this beautiful sound with vocals reminiscent of Guillemots' Fyfe Dangerfield singing clear over strings and echoing atmospheric sounds before handing over to the second, more soulful vocal.

It's clear throughout Matilda that Stateless discard conventional verse-chorus-verse songwriting and replace it with complete technicality, piecing together segments of alternating genres and musical blends. The result proves difficult listening and Matilda feels at times like a showcase of Stateless' technical ability and obsession rather than a collection of musical tracks that bind together well as an album. That said, however, Stateless' confidence, technical ability and individuality as a band are undoubted and Matilda offers more than mere gentle suggestions of potential; instead a whopping hint of a sound that, if refined, could really be something great.

Hannah Spencer

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