Album Review: WET MATH – Echo
I find that one of the most interesting things about this lockdown is that it’s easy to forget that literally everyone is going through this. We’re so isolated that it almost feels surreal to hear people talk about it on TV or during live streams. It’s been going on so long that it’s strange seeing people congregate on TV. We’re oddly all in this together even though we’re not really interacting with one another except electronically but it still feels like we’re all going through this alone. Relating to music has always helped me feel less alone as I navigate this messy thing called life.
Enter Echo, the newest set of songs from experimental singer-songwriter Matthew Serra. It’s been almost 5 years since I first covered Serra’s (aka Monecho) last album. Now he’s back working under a new moniker, WET MATH. Serra has expanded his influences even further by pulling inspiration from electronic, IDM, drum and bass flamenco, world music, and even Bulgarian folk.
On his newest endeavor, WET MATH is a further extension of Serra’s ability to dip his toes in several genres, seamlessly pulling them together for another beautifully layered set of tracks. The EP’s title track is dripping with glitchy vocals cascading over waves of synths. There’s a beautiful ebb and flow to the track as if the listener is floating on a calm body of water but can sense the turbulence underneath. Glitch-scoured vocals push the listener to the edge of being uncomfortable before falling off and releasing the tension just a little. The track ebbs and flows like this throughout. It’s like floating on a calm sea where you can feel the turbulence building underneath. That turbulence builds then drops off then builds again until it crashes flawlessly into the EP’s second track.
There’s organized chaos to the EP’s second track “Echoing (Rhythms)” that feels like walking a fine line between calm and frenzied. If the “Echo” is the storm brewing, “Echoing (Rhythms)” is that storm crashing into the shore. It’s chaos, but it’s organized chaos. Like giant robots fighting and destroying everything in their path, but it’s beautifully choreographed. You could probably spend hours trying to pull back the layers of the track and still would not even begin to scratch the surface of its intricacy.
Echo is a near-perfect representation of our current situation. The EP actually started out as a single which Serra had been working on before COVID-19 hit. He had wrapped the lyrics, writing, and production just as the new normal of the lockdown began to settle over New York City where Serra resides. “I couldn’t stop writing it. I wanted to stop, but it was like I was bitten. What was supposed to be a 2-minute song became a 10 minute EP of interconnected musical ideas, audio content, and an evolution of what my day-to-day feelings were, cycling through elation, having a lot of fun despite the outside being such a foreboding place, winding down into somber sadness (the last track of the album).” Serra explains over Facebook Messenger. “The lyrics also took a lot of inspiration from what I found myself experiencing at the time; I didn’t have a huge emotional response to the quarantine at first, but rather felt myself, cooped up in my apartment, reliving many issues I thought I had sorted out, different signals of programming I had received in my childhood about how to live my life and who and what I should be, and I felt moved to tears in dealing with it regularly. I couldn’t believe that after 30 years on this earth I hadn’t yet discovered some of the deepest parts of my inner voice, a voice that wasn’t telling me the things I most believed about but was just parroting the shoulds and should not’s I’d grown up with. These tracks were an exorcism in a few different ways.”
“Echoing (Reflections)” closes the EP out nicely, returning the listener to floating over a calm sea of glistening synths. There’s still some turmoil lurking underneath that builds as the track progresses. The song is still laced with turmoil and uncertainty but there’s an odd sense of hope that it leaves you with.
For my personal experience, Echo is a sonic representation of how I’ve felt for the last however many days we’ve been in quarantine. While we may not be able to go through this physically together, it’s comforting knowing that we’re not actually alone in this. And although we have no idea when or even if we’ll ever return to normal as we used to know it, Serra’s music leaves me feeling that eventually we’ll all get through this. That even though we can’t see it yet, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.