Matthew Borland, a.k.a. HaspPrecise, a.k.a. TheyungMatthew, has long been one of my favorite Atlanta producers, a far-too-under-the-radar powerhouse who utilizes experimental hip-hop and ambient electronica, not just to create forward-leaning beats and soundscapes, but, more importantly, to construct metaphysical journeys of the mind. His work with fellow producer Dissolvr in Natural Selektion, in particular their 2013 effort Passage to Dreamland, remains some of the most heady and immersive music I’ve heard in this city, and his textural contributions to WAKE’s new LP helped provide a richness and depth to the group’s engrossing instrumentals.
With Songs to Die To, Borland doesn’t so much drop six distinct compositions as he does one extended tone poem that ruminates on the nature of being and existence. As a whole, it feels dark and melancholy; there’s a definite sense of loneliness and isolation lurking within the icy synths, glacial beats and sputtering percussion, but there’s also something cosmic and otherworldly in these downtempo soundscapes that helps chip away at the pensive sadness and points to something far more transcendental.
So much of ambient music is about the mood of the listener and the emotions they bring to it (so you can take that dark and melancholy descriptor with a grain of salt), but it’s difficult not to get entangled in the upward sweep of this record and the celestial vastness the songs imply. Even the spoken word clips that Borland injects into some of the tracks — meditations on religion, consciousness and being — only add to their empyrean pulse, reverberations of the boundless and infinite.
I realize it’s probably easier to talk about this record in neat divisions; i.e. the stark, harrowing beauty of “What Could Have Been” or “Miss Understanding”‘s contemplative build or the starry-eyed serenity of closer “Sleepless.” But to get at the soul of Songs to Die To it’s necessary to take a step back and embrace the entirety of Borland’s vision. Each track leans into, props up and propels the next, launching the record into the upper reaches of — what — the mind? The great beyond? The answer isn’t mine to give; it’s only yours to seek out. All I can say is this: Songs to Die To is well worth the journey.