Chad Matheny has been making music under the Emperor X banner for
almost a decade. He is currently touring periodically in support
of the album-series The Blythe Archives and feverishly taping gleeful,
echo-drenched neofolk compositions on his Tascam 388 in a Bed-Stuy
walkup that has an illicit gambling ring in the basement. When not
and PHP code for money.
The Blythe Archives | Volume One is available on Burnt Toast Vinyl
as part of the ongoing one-sided LP series. The release contains
three proper songs and one sprawling, echo-mad, soca-flavored soundquake
composed on amplified steel drum, electronic percussion, gated kick/snare
hits, dub delay and pan effects, and chaotic melody shards. The
centerpiece of the disc is the first track, the four minute "Hallelujah",
in which Matheny makes use of analog techniques torn from the playbook
of Lee "Scratch" Perry to tape a 5/4 ostinato nylon string
guitar hymn celebrating cows, RNA, taxi dispatchers, ozone, and
space colonization. Like the other one-sided LP series releases,
the record's B-side contains not audio but an etching by the band
depicting visual representations of the concepts alluded to in the
songs. Unlike others in the series, the etching on Volume One also
contains clues necessary to find the hidden, geocached master tape
fragment corresponding to the release.
In keeping with the theme of the series, Chad Matheny’s likeness
appears on the album's cover, rendered completely in ASCII text.
The entire album artwork is a throwback to ‘70s computer generated
ASCII and line graphics.
as a piece but projected to be recorded and released gradually throughout
2008, The Blythe Archives will be four E.P.-length releases on various
formats. Each release will contain hidden clues, codes, or hints
that will direct listeners to geocached master tapes containing
songs not on the release and elaborate, one-of-a-kind packaging.
The person to arrive at the geocache will find instructions on how
to activate locked .mp3s at http://emperorx.net/ba and make the
hidden audio available to the public for donation-optional download.
The finder may retain the master tape, which will be the only analog
physical copy of the music.
Though Matheny's Emperor X project has been active since 1998, 2005
was the first time anyone outside of his friends and family heard
it. That year, Matheny released two full-length albums on the adorably
small Discos Mariscos label; the discs caught many critics, bloggers,
and college radio music directors off guard. Both albums debuted
in the Top Ten Most Added on CMJ's new music charts while garnering
hearty praise from PopMatters, All Music Guide, and the notoriously
finicky Pitchfork Media. "Indie may well have its own Prince."
wrote Matt Stephens, of music blog heavyweight Coke Machine Glow,
while the UK's Plan B Magazine called the music "a swollen
interfusion of capricious brilliance" and "Fried genius."
Frenzied continent-crossing tours followed, including a foray into
Mexico. The performances were awkward song-raids on art galleries,
bars, bookstores, university symposia, and a laser tag arena in
Connecticut. Matheny played the split role of equal part singer/songwriter
and audio saboteur, terrorizing unsuspecting audiences and horrifying
those at the soundboard. The music sometimes happened with the aid
of a ramshackle, constantly-changing lineup of close friends. On
other occasions, an Emperor X show was little more than Matheny
and a battery amp, tape deck, and delay
pedal. Regardless of the format, grins or uncomfortable silences
spread across antsy audiences waiting to hear the likes of Lou Barlow,
Nada Surf, Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, the Hold Steady, Oxford
Collapse, and John Vanderslice (who would later call Matheny "a
serious genius" on his website.)
The busy blogosphere was kind to Emperor X as well, as stats on
LastFM grew constantly. Meanwhile, the itinerant, occasionally homeless
Matheny spent the next eighteen months saving money, working odd
web coding jobs or burrowing into cold, echoey buildings in Brooklyn
to make the recordings that would eventually coalesce into the Dirt
Dealership 7" and his current effort, the multi-format, multi-volume
album-series The Blythe Archives.
Emperor X will tour to support The Blythe Archives | Volume One
throughout the winter of 2007/08.