Because his debut album arrives at a moment when attention on the city's Low End Theory collective is seemingly at a peak, you might expect Outmind to be the sort of manifesto that encapsulates matthewdavid in a convenient and conventional package. But that's hardly the case. Outmind is a 31-minute pencil sketch of an album, feeling more like one of Leaving's handmade cassette tapes than a proper debut. McQueen's collage-based tracks are vibrant and expressive, and initially quite stunning if you've never heard it before. Putting on the album is like walking into an exotic market, the pungent smells of strange spices wafting through the steady din of haggling and squawking animals. But while the whooshes of compressed air and AM dial-jumping that typify McQueen's beats are a neat trick of sound design, they're too broadly obscured to make much of an impact over such a short running time. Instead, the songs on Outmind blur together completely, usually until a vocal or distinctive sample pops up to alert you to the fact that this is, in fact, a different song.
Normally there's nothing wrong with that sort of slurred cohesion, but Outmind just feels apathetically insignificant, ending just as you're easing into its impenetrable world. While it commands McQueen's usual vast array of source material, from booming '80s pop to boom-bap hip-hop to balmy chillwave (try to pick the three apart in dense album highlight "Noche y Dia/San Raphael"), the music is too anonymous to engender the nostalgia-laden potency it's aiming for. The rare moments of singularity—the stop-you-in-your-tracks sublimity of "Like You Mean It" which hops through several generations of popular music in its brief running time—are offset by the persistent condensation blotting out the lens. A few decent songs and a whole lot of interludes, Outmind is not some confident cincher of identity both sonic and conceptual—it's a glorified and unflatteringly sprawling EP.
matthewdavid is an unusual producer who makes unusually poignant music out of static and aged aural clippings, which is why his debut album is all the more heartbreaking. Hopefully he just wasn't ready; maybe after a few more of those cassettes and bizarre mixes he'll knock us over with a real album. For now, I'll just stick "Like You Mean It" on repeat.