New Tangles, the new long player from West Coast psych-pop stalwarts the gift machine unrolls like a languid beach break, wrapping the listener in soft-edged, heady warmth. As the swell builds the record finds its footing, sliding into a churning glide of that radiates an easy confidence. That poise was earned honest, as the folks behind the gift machine have a history of making great records; both for themselves and a slew of others.
Initially founded as an outlet for the solo work of songwriter Dave Matthies, the band soon mutated organically into a near-collective of Washington luminaries. “I ran KNW-YR-OWN Records with Bret Lunsford (Beat Happening, D+) in Anacortes, WA from 1998-2006,” explains Matthies, “and was collaborating with Karl Blau, Phil Elverum (Microphones/Mount Eerie), Nate Ashley and others. We all played on each other’s records and live bands.” Matthies released four full-lengths through KNW-YR-OWN during that period, touring the U.S. several times in support. Concurrently, Matthies ran a recording studio called Vibe Control, recording and producing myriad noteworthy releases, including the first Maldives record and Karl Blau’s Beneath Waves (K Records), and worked with Microphones/Mount Eerie, Little Wings, Laura Veirs, Thanksgiving, Your Heart Breaks, the Murder City Devils and many more.
In 2006 Matthies moved to Southern California, where he met now-wife and band member Andrea Gruber Matthies (drums/vocals). In 2009, they released Goodbye/Goodluck on a revived KNW-YR-OWN, the first record to feature Andrea Matthies on vocals. “Karl lived with us for a while in 2014 and was full-member of the band” says Matthies. “We self-released 2015’s Hard Facts Are Still Uncertain featuring Karl on keyboards and background vocals. Karl moved back home, and we reformed the band around our currently line-up of Alanna Cassidy on bass guitar and Matt Lawson on guitar and keyboards.”
More than anything, New Tangles comes across as an honest work, art created for its own sake out of some primal drive that pushes those of a peculiar bent to form something from nothing more than hunch and inspiration. “We (obviously) have no grand career plan or expectations” laughs Matthies. “We make this music for us. I hope the sincerity of the songs and the playing come through. Producing our own music and releasing it on small labels has allowed us to keep progressing. I think each gift machine record keeps getting better and better because there is no pressure.” In an age of target-marketed music made by committee, listening to a record this comfortable in its own skin is deeply refreshing; and something we could all use a little more of. With luck, the gift machine will keep on giving for years to come.
Glide is proud to premiere the imaginative video for “Best We Could Do,” a playful film that is reminiscent of the videos from the golden era of MTV while combining a nod to 120 Minutes 90’s college rock that is both cerebral and gritty.
“I think I’m willing to admit I filmed, directed, and did all the post-production on this video for “Best We Could Do”, based on an original idea that my brother Darrin Matthies gave me,” says Matthies. “I had been reading David Lynch’s wonderful autobiography “Room to Dream” and was inspired to work with the random images that would pop in my head right before falling asleep or right after meditating (I stole Brian Wilson’s mantra off and old Mike Douglas tv show from the 70’s),” says This was all filmed at our new house in Escondido, CA. The amazing drone work was filmed by my stepson Jordan Gruber. I had an idea to recreate a bunch of iconic 80’s videos for the outro and roped in a bunch of my favorites San Diego bands to film cameos. Featuring guest appearances by members of Thee Sick Balloons, the Oxen, Modern Bummer and Royal Malloy. “
The songs on New Tangles were all written – honest to whoever – while Matthies was either driving or dreaming. “I started to wake up a lot with melodies and chord changes in my head during the writing of this record” Mathies tells us. “I commute to Los Angeles for work a lot so I often free associate lyrics while driving. I obviously have to pay some attention to the driving so the lyrics take on a more subconscious tone because I’m just saying whatever comes in my head without thinking it.”
As is tradition, when the time came to put these nightdreams and daydreams to tape Matthies reached out to his extended the gift machine family. In addition to Mr. and Ms. Matthies, Cassidy, and Lawson, the record features appearances by Karl Blau on bass and brother Darrin Matthies on background vocals and iPad instrument. Former guitar player (though, does anyone really leave the gift machine) Dan Chambers plays guitar and added spaceship ambient effects. John and Jozette Vineyard (Oxen, The Polyphonic Spree) sing background vocals, and Brandon Lawhorne (Thee Sick Balloons) handled some percussion work. It was produced, recorded, and mixed by the Matthies, and mastered at Abbey Road in London, England by Frank Arkwright (Arcade Fire, The Smiths, Belle and Sebastian, etc). New Tangles will be released nationally by the Tuscon, AZ-based PIAPTK label.
Middle photo by Ciel Blau