There is much to be angry about these days, and just listing it all would take up a word count larger than you’re willing to read. The tiniest thing can set people off right now. Not long ago, being slightly too close to someone while picking up pineapple chunks in the local Co-op would not have resulted in a foul-mouthed exchange and a fist fight. Not now.
What we need is some grace. Drew Daniel, the man behind The Soft Pink Truth and co-originator of Matmos, is more than capable of making angry music. His paean to black metal on 2014 album Why Do The Heathen Rage? was glorious, heartfelt, funny and at times, furious. It was also rather subversive. He is not beyond unusual thinking, so performances made entirely of the sounds of plastic surgery procedures – or simply just plastic – are all there to be enjoyed and marvelled at. It stands to reason that someone capable of such articulacy should be able to move from rage to peace, love and understanding with considerable flair.
Following the election of Donald Trump, Daniel’s initial response was one of sadness and anger. Rather than respond to those feelings with an album of, as he puts it, “angry white guy” music, Shall We Go On Sinning So That Grace May Increase? is a much more contemplative, meditative affair. It is probably the most relaxing and calming record Daniel has made in his guise as The Soft Pink Truth; the sonic equivalent of poking a flower down the barrel of a gun.
The album feels much like one continuous piece, with most of the compositions based on vocals provided by Colin Self, Angel Deradoorian and Jana Hunter. At times they form a heavenly chorus that is as much informed by classical music as it is traditional vocal tradition. There are also contributions from saxophonists Andrew Bernstein and John Berndt, who provide a sense of freewheeling jazz. The other half of Matmos, MC Schmidt, adds some quite beautiful piano into the mix alongside some sterling work from Koye Berry on vibraphone, and percussion of Sarah Hennies. For his part, Daniel moulds the songs and liberally applies a Roland Space Echo Tape Unit to many of these compositions. The result is something that feels open and transcendent, focused, yet fuzzy. Daniel’s electronic glitches are barely present and, whilst there are moments where it feels as if you’re in a deep Trance or heading home on the Night Bus, for the most part, this is an album that comes across as an organic creation.
Shall We Go On Sinning… is very much a collaborative album, with Daniel acting as a focal point and compiler. This way of working has created an album that feels alive and joyous in its creation and performance. Whilst its title comes from The Bible’s Paul The Apostle, this is not a religious work. It could however be described as spiritual at times, for listening to it is a calming, almost cleansing experience. Its collaborative method of creation and Daniel’s peaceful response to the rise of global fascism/idiocy also point towards a sense of enlightenment. Drew Daniel has almost certainly caused an upward turn in grace figures with this release.