Stasis equals death—that would seem to be Matthew Dear's credo. A year on from 2010's Black City album, the four-track EP Headcage suggests that the NY-based producer has already moved on, something we'll more clearly know when his upcoming Beams full-length arrives. The EP's material finds Dear understandably distancing himself not only from the work he's issued under the Audion and False aliases but also the material he's released under his birth name. In short, Headcage is far removed from the clubby melodic techno style documented on 2003's long-ago Leave Luck to Heaven and hook-heavy cuts like “Dog Days,” and that's as it should be, as he presumably sees little point in repeating himself. Listening to Dear's music, I can't help but hear “When I have nothing to say, my lips are sealed / Say something once, why say it again?” from Talking Heads' “Psycho Killer” echoing in my head.
Co-produced by Van Rivers and The Subliminal Kid (a Swedish partnership known for their work on Blonde Redhead's Penny Sparkle and Fever Ray's self-titled disc, among others), the title cut provides a trippy way into the release, with whispered clusters of Dear's voice acting as arresting scenery for the lead vocal's low-pitched croak (of course, the line “Let's go have fun tonight” can't help but call to mind—like it or not—Wang Chung's 1986 hit “Everybody Have Fun Tonight”). Dear's openness to new directions is most fully exemplified by “In The Middle (I Met You There),” a slinky slice of neon-lit electro-pop that undergirds a lead vocal by Jonny Pierce (of Brooklyn outfit The Drums) with Dear's familiar baritone, while “Street Song” opts for woozy reverie and an equally liquified vocal treatment. Oddly enough, the new tracks suggest that the Heads' one-time svengali Brian Eno might be an inspired production partner for some future Dear project, especially when the EP's voodoo-tinged final track, the diseased incantation “Around A Fountain,” doesn't sound all that different from the kind of thing Eno himself might create were he so inclined.