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Agents of Time

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Album Review

In two years, Mathew Jonson went from remixing singles by fellow Canadian Nelly Furtado to mastering an instantly identifiable, exceptionally streamlined form of dance music that was just as moving outside an underground club setting. Neither straight techno nor trance, it was a distinctly moody hybrid of the two styles that kept listeners attentive to every nuance. From 2002 through 2005, Jonson’s steadily unfolding epics of creeping, insidious design were in regular supply, licensed for mixes by Ricardo Villalobos, François Kevorkian, and Slam. Since late 2005’s 7.19 FM David EP, the analog gearhead’s output has either deviated slightly from that sound — usually with beats bulkier than those of their elder siblings — or scrapped it in favor of avant downtempo that would empty a floor within seconds. Though Agents of Time, Jonson’s first album, contains an alternate mix of 2005’s “Marionette,” it otherwise builds upon the later releases. The only other previously issued track is “When Love Feels Like Crying,” a sparse tearjearker in which echo plays as much of a role as the percussion. It’s part of a mostly low-key second half that contains some of the producer’s most compelling material, as slight as it may seem in the wake of so many advanced dancefloor bombs. “Pirates in the 9th” resembles Autechre’s “Lowride,” or Magic Mike in heavy syrup, in its roving/leaching action — an ambient-electro holding pattern full of suspense. “New Model Robots” swings gently with string swells. Ironically, the active moments earlier in the album are not quite as spectacular. “Girls Got Rhythm” and “Sunday Disco Romance” are more in the vein of older tracks like “Put Your Booty Shorts On,” pumping frisky friction with smacking hi-hats and probing keyboard work. “Thieves in Digital Land,” placed between the two playful tracks, creates unease with tense texture layers over a (pleasingly) sickly bassline. They’re not liable to stun like “Typerope” or “Decompression,” and not one of them is nearly as monstrous as “Symphony for the Apocalypse,” yet they take the shape of a depthful album that is not lacking in replayability.


Born: Vancouver, British Columbia, Cana

Genre: Dance

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Mathew Jonson's path to becoming one of the most revered techno producers of the 2000s began, strangely enough, in a bagpipe band. Seven years old at the time, he played marching snare drum behind his adult counterparts. Through high school in his native Vancouver, he was enrolled in jazz and classical classes. At some point after graduation, he attended school for recording engineering but found it draining and dropped out. During the late ‘90s, he was immersed in drum’n’bass and DJ’d through the...
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Agents of Time, Mathew Jonson
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