Before digging into the steely, handcrafted technoisms of Homesick, you need to know a few things about Charles Duff, the Bay Area artist behind Matrixxman. Perhaps most importantly, he is a dedicated futurist—quick to name Google’s director of engineering, Ray Kurzweil, as a major personal inspiration, and prone to contemplating artificial intelligence and “a true post-corporeal reality.” He’s also a voracious information junkie, soaking up government conspiracies and contemporary science-fiction like a proper X-Files fanatic. These cultural reference points are as integral to the background of Homesick as Detroit, Chicago, and Berlin’s musical legacies. Across the record’s versatile tracklist, Matrixxman uses the language of machines and dancefloors like a hungry pulp novelist, weaving together his divergent narratives and characters under one sprawling dystopian sky.
If you listened to techno and house in 2014, you’ve undoubtedly heard the name Matrixxman. The guy has been on a prolific tear since debuting his project in 2013, having issued no fewer than 12 “cold-ass futuristic” releases and taken his techno-centric DJ sets around the world in under two years. But his story reaches much further into the past: back to being a drum & bass-obsessed teenager in the late ’90s, back to when Duff’s best friend changed his life with a Juan Atkins mix CD in 2001, back to producing for hotly tipped MCs like Le1f, Ty Dolla Sign, and YG. Matrixxman is already a venerable pro with workmanlike constitution, to say the least, and yet his debut album has only just materialized.
“My obsession with the darker sides of humanity’s exploits gone awry is secondary to the more important matter at heart: evolutionary transcendence,” Matrixxman explains. And his focus on cybernetic themes shines through the music. Emergent AI, interplanetary travel, neuroenhancement drugs, incredible opulence juxtaposed with abject poverty, leaving physical form and existing as data—Homesick distills the concepts into thick acid lines, brawny 909 patterns, tonal contrasts, dynamic aesthetics, and viscous pads steeped in digital ephemera. It begins with “Necronomicon”, a massive black cloud of noxious ambience looming over our story, and ends on the astral mysticism of “Earth Like Conditions”. Yes, there is an arc built into Homesick, and the sci-fi epic it illustrates seizes your undivided attention.
Even the tracklist speaks volumes to the record’s music and narrative—from the enhanced motorik systems of “Augmented” and “Network Failure”‘s cognitive dissonance, to the dark hedonism in “Opium Den” and the drum machine violence that drives “Switchblade”. As Matrixxman says himself, “The titles correlate to distinct, separate scenes.” And those visuals just about come alive on tracks like “Packard Plant”—a whirring, windswept homage to the desolate Detroit landmark—or the album’s haunted and distant centerpiece, “Annika’s Theme”. Duff is quick to share Annika’s identity: “She’s an incredibly gifted neuroscientist, pursuing cutting-edge research in fields that will have a profound impact on humanity.” But what exactly she accomplishes and where she goes is unexplained. Homesick outlines the cues needed to follow along, careful to leave room for us to fill in the details.
Matrixxman uses his debut album to evoke visions of a not-too-distant-future with music made both for the dancefloor and the early morning zone-outs that follow. These are the real world applications of Homesick, though Duff comes to it all from an entirely different mindset. “We will have the technological capability to fully map out a human brain in its entirety within 30 years,” he starts. “The implications of such a possibility are deep and far reaching. We will be crossing a rubicon towards a new phase in human consciousness. I am one person that is prepared to take that step.” Once you emerge on the other side of Homesick, it seems possible that Matrixxman already has.