BTV082 Emperor X : The Blythe Archives Volume One

The Blythe Archives Volume One (btv082)
Buy Online | one-sided LP
Track listing:
A Side
1. Hallelujah
2. Gamma Globulin
3. Please Do Not Punch the Horse in the Throat
B Side
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 caterwauling into a recently-soldered microphone, he trades Javascript 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.

Conceived 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 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.