Review: M. Sage “Data in the Details”

30 Sep 2014 — Dave Power

According to his Bandcamp page, Matthew Sage has only released music for the past three years and yet has amassed at least twenty releases. Most of his musical output has a similar ambient/experimental direction and it’s all breathtakingly gorgeous in different ways. Sage's music has a particularly introspective and personal feel to it, substantially consisting of found sounds, recorded violin/cello, and vocal recordings. These sounds are then heavily processed, effected and weaved in and out of each other. There are a lot of ambient and experimental noise musicians out there at the moment, and M. Sage is right there with all of them, pushing the boundaries and the buttons. He gathers the organic sounds of the world around him and molds them into something else altogether, intact, but beautifully alien in nature.

Many M. Sage releases consist of several tracks of three-to-five-minute songs, while others draw the listener further in with a couple of twenty minute tracks. The latest effort from M. Sage, Data in the Details, is the latter. The A side is the 15-minute “Heads Up Extended Edit”, while the B is his “Mover Isuzu Dub Edit”. At the opening of “Extended Edit” the static sound of something like a helicopter flown through water gives way to the sounds of drastically reverb-drenched bells, rapidly panning back and forth. The music whirs like an abandoned automobile factory with the forgotten machines left endlessly running. Underneath the heavily edited sounds, the listener can hear the clean field recordings of traffic, birds, and maybe the sound of keys jingling as a stranger walks across an empty parking garage. These sounds repeat, overlap and combine with each other until the listener can no longer remember each its origin. Data In the Details, indeed.

The B-side begins similarly to the A-side, but features a consistent rolling dub beat with the intensely warbled and processed found sounds and organic instruments echoing in the background. The same shuddering synth drones, sounds of faraway bells, birds, traffic noise and vocal samples careen back and forth into each other. The beat is interrupted a few times, allowing the background noises and wet bell tones to blend and crescendo back into the same groove throughout the track. The listener is transported to another world where the sun vibrates and the rivers rush and freeze in time all at once. Sage’s 21st release makes for quite another trip.

Data in the Details is out now on a limited run of 100 cassettes through Geographic North.