I’m head over heels in love with the astonishingly beautiful album What Comes Around by alternative electronic pop/rock band Matto Rules. The album, which dropped in May 2016, is a sonic masterpiece of lush electro-synth chords, sleek guitars and gorgeous vocals. I think it’s one of the best albums of 2016, with 11 superb tracks – any one of which could be a hit single!
Hailing from Bern, Switzerland, the band’s name was inspired by Matto, the insane ghost and fictional ruler of a psychiatric clinic portrayed in Swiss author Friedrich Glauser’s pulp crime novel In Matto’s Realm. But there’s certainly nothing insane about Matto Rules, except to say their music is insanely awesome! The band told me they thought Matto was a good metaphor for the atmospheric and psychedelic touch of their music.
Matto Rules consists of frontman and lead vocalist Lorenzo Bonati, bassist Fabian Baer, drummer Thomas Blanchat and lead guitarist Pascal Glauser (no relation to the author). The band recorded their first single “All Over” in 2012, then released a follow up double-sided single “Syd” in 2013, followed by a four-song EP “Lonely Cat” later that same year. Through that early music, the band gained a fan base and rave reviews as they toured around Switzerland and Europe.
Wanting a more polished sound for their new album, the band enlisted Chicago producer and sound engineer Ben Treimer (who’s worked with MUTEMATH and Emmylou Harris, among others), and the result is the stunning What Comes Around.
The first single, released prior to the album in November 2015, is the mesmerizing, psychedelic-tinged “Crystal Bay.” This gorgeous song seemingly floats on water. Shimmering guitars and smooth electronic synths, along with Bonati’s captivating vocals and airy backing vocals by Monica Gibbs, all serve to create an ethereal, atmospheric mood. The heartfelt lyrics address the wish to overcome a painful, addictive relationship:
The rather dark video – which contains footage of images of various objects artistically tied together symbolizing trash, a man driving a motorboat that’s towing pool floats, Bonati dressed in a colorful patterned suit paddling a raft, and the trash burning on the shore – was filmed at beautiful Lake Lucerne.
The first track on the album and second to be released as a single, “Tonight” is a sweeping, joyously upbeat synth-pop tune that’s as exhilarating as it is beautiful.
“Let’s outrun all of our troubles, like we did when we were young. 808’s until the sun’s up, tomorrow it will be the same. But we’re here tonight.”
We’re introduced to the song by Bonati’s sublime vocals accompanied by gentle synth chords, then hammering drums and swirling guitars rain down in a cascade of rich synthesizers, all held together by a thumping bassline. It’s so gorgeous I don’t want it to end.
The fascinating, clever video shows the band playing the song in a series of traffic circles at night, with the camera panning around them. A woman driver circles them in her car, taking photographs she later uses to create artistic geometric images on her computer that are then superimposed on the traffic circles.
“Somewhere Else” keeps the energy flowing with a driving, synth-fueled beat and chiming guitars that shred at just the right moments. The song has a decidedly 80’s feel, which is why I love it. The pace slows a bit with the melodic, synth and bass-heavy “Alive,” with its beautiful harmonizing vocals. Synthesizers rule and guitars sing in the Depeche Mode-esque tracks “Let it Rain,” “In the Agency” and “Sleeper.” Bonati’s vocals in these tracks are so damn good! Well, truth be told, they’re damn good in every single song.
The lovely, melodic ballad “Caveman” is one of my favorite tracks on the album. Gentle percussion, beautiful piano and captivating guitar riffs make this song soar to the heavens. Another awesome track, “Monster,” has a bit of a Tears For Fears vibe, and really showcases Bonati’s impassioned vocals: “I feed a monster, in my unconscious. From time to time, it gets the best of me. Growing stronger everyday. I feel it’s time to let you hunt. I’ll drive you out, my little monster.”
The parade of gorgeous songs continues with the lush, synth-rock “Evil Eyes.”
“Let’s seal the contract. Engrave it with a promise. Denial will be useless. I’m always close behind. Show me your pain, and I will give you an escape. There is another path that you can take.”
The album closer “New Beginning” is a hopeful, psychedelic-infused anthem that’s the perfect ending to a perfect album.