For longtime Mathew Jonson and Cobblestone Jazz fans, Her Blurry Pictures will be manna from heaven. More a portfolio than a cohesive album, its eight tracks comprise an eclectic look-book of styles throughout which the Canadian's production trademarks (meandering melodies; distinct echoes of his jazz and classical musical education; artfully blended live and programmed instrumentation) are all present and correct.
The opening three tracks could hardly be more different. If it weren't so loaded a term, you might describe "Level 7" as progressive house: sparkling, wide-eyed and underpinned by subtle shifts in tempo and percussive idiosyncrasies. "Illusions Of Control" harks back, like Cobblestone Jazz's "Cromagnon Man," to Mantronix and the haunted, sci-fi soundworld of early Detroit electro. "Sahara," meanwhile, is deeply strange, a near eight-minute lo-fi miasma of slow, rippling synths, queasy, strung-out chords and stereo-panning effects. It sounds like some recently rediscovered early kosmische experiment. The closing title track is Balearic and almost beatless, covering similar ground in a grander, more polished style.
It's easy to admire: this is intelligent, well-crafted music. But as you plough on, into "Kissing Your Eyes" (all jolly jazz-funk keys, like Parliament seen through a deep house filter) or "Lightweight Champion" (somewhat rote, epic tech house), the journey begins to feel aimless. Even in its best moments, such as "Body In Motion"—a shimmering curtain of tiny bleeps 'n bloops—Her Blurry Pictures is far from earth shattering.
More fundamentally, these tracks don't hang together as an album. Most of them are new, but some date back several years to Jonson's days in Vancouver. Altogether it sounds like a grab-bag, uneven in tone and in quality. "Sahara," in particular, sounds more like a tentative, private sketch than a fully fleshed-out idea. His fans might find this fascinating. For anyone else, there are better entry points into Jonson's catalogue.