Driftwood seems pointless: it’s carried by the current rather than having its own energy, it is disconnected from its source, it clutters. But driftwood tells you something about where it’s been, about the flow of life around it, and if you let its tempo set the pace it can open up a different journey.
Matthew Toohey’s new album as Kid Cornered is in some ways musical driftwood. The pace is almost languid, as if set free rather than setting a course. The intentions are blurry, partially obscured by a gauze layer both musical and in production. And even when energy kicks in a little harder on a track such as Ten Steps, it is a quickening not a surge.
But let it take you and you find yourself somewhere quite different by the end, your view shifted from internal to external and back again in ways that tell you more about yourself than you think.
As with Machine Translations’ J. Walker, with whom the writer/producer shares an ability to not only conceive but realise a singular vision, Toohey’s preferred method of delivery is a gentle melody laid over a slightly more active rhythm with keyboards or guitars filling rather than reshaping air.
His songs don’t impose which means they can be missed, or dismissed, by a casual listener. That would be a mistake, a waste.
On Belly Full Of Freeway this approach conjures up a kind of mellow psychedelia, the organ’s swirl quite hypnotic. On Break Down Tales there’s a guitar figure which recalls the smudged Arizona horizons of Meat Puppets and the desert state comparison extends into Eleven Steps which takes up the mixed natures of Calexico: part sun warmed, part sun bleached.
I also like the way Toohey can build small steps of unease into an otherwise gentle song as the album winds its way to the end, such as Smoking Water (creeping disquiet that seems to exist in the echo to his voice) and Branched (what Lana Del Ray tries to do with more visible effort) before Rudder On The Rail and its hint of potential dance closes the record while making room for some comparisons with Perth’s seemingly inexhaustible supply of psych rock bands.
By the time you’ve finished Rudder On The Rail there’s been a fair bit of drift but it’s never been pointless and the destination reached has purpose: you’ve felt something. I like that.