Matt Corby - Telluric
by Sarah Turnnidge
Telluric is a choice title that is both musical and intriguing, though seemingly plucked out of obscurity. It took me a quick Google to find it’s definition, and it was not as expected. “Of the soil” read the definition, “Of the earth as a planet”. For an artist such as Matt Corby, who has previously made his name with hit tracks such as Brother, with his ethereal voice coasting over acoustic guitar lines on countless YouTube session videos, I was expecting something else. Something that mirrored the countless angelic comparisons Matt Corby has frequently been drawn against. Interesting then, that in his debut full LP offering, Corby grounds himself very much in earthy reality.
With the opening seconds of first track Belly Side Up, this grounded approach already begins to make perfect sense. Underneath a sustained, quivering note bounces a deep, earthy bass, soon joined by Corby’s unmistakable voice, slipping straight into the low, meandering tone of the track. The song itself is, on surface level, understated; it’s crescendo’s come and go somewhat quietly, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t memorable, in fact, within a couple of lines it’s almost impossible to listen without at least humming along to the main hook. Second track is the already-released single Monday, sounding a little more like the Matt Corby fans have come to know from his earlier acoustic videos. Vocally, this is where Corby really establishes himself; the sounds on this track are wholly organic, looped vocal over looped vocal, over a simple rhythmic stomp-and-clap motif that carries the song along. That is, until it artfully drops away, allowing Corby’s, honestly breath-taking, falsetto to soar out of the tune as if from nowhere.
Knife’s Edge rings in with a heavier bass line than expected, double recorded vocals trip quickly through the verses creating a strange atmosphere to the song. Here, Corby breaks alarmingly fast out of the stuttering style he adopts for the verse and goes all-guns-blazing into the swelling chorus, which leaps into the bridge seamlessly. “I love that I can say I wouldn’t feel this way without you,” sings Corby, grounding the song in a relatively simple emotional grounding. There are no excessive metaphors to be found here, just music that runs too fast and too brilliantly to think too much about, with an honest sentiment to match. “Oh Oh Oh” intertwines the vocal layering that dominated Monday with just a little of the funk of Knife’s Edge, with lyrics that are themselves often indistinguishable. It’s clear that Corby’s voice is the star of this track, an aural playground that swings around with a disorientating effect – rooted only in the undulating bass.
The second half of the album is seen in by Sooth Lady Wine, a distinctive track marked by its jazz tones. “If you feel alright/ Get off your phone/ Drink it in tonight,” sings Corby, maintaining the spontaneous, real feel of his album. “We can begin to feel the happiness,” he continues, and the celebratory tone of this song makes itself clear. With previous singles containing much darker, introspective lyrics, this track seems a conscious effort to shake off some earlier gloom, emphasised by a whimsical flute line dancing around through the last third of the song. We Could Be Friends is a return to a funkier feel, Corby sings through the lower end of his register and occasionally displays some serious vocal force, giving away to scatty keyboard and electric guitar notes towards the end of the song.
This is an album that has done much to deconstruct the conception of Corby as a run-of-the-mill acoustic singer/songwriter, but penultimate track Good To Be Alone serves as a reminder to Corby’s ability to create quiet beauty. Here, the full instrumentation of the other tracks is stripped away to a gently plucked electric guitar, taking it’s time and revelling in it’s simplicity until it opens up to Corby’s sublime voice. In previous times, this could have perhaps been an opportunity to regress into depressed, introspective lyricism, but Corby sings with the same truth and reassurance that flows through the album. “You go your way I go mine/We just have to take our time,” he murmurs, maintaining the honesty that characterises this record. Final track Empires Attraction maintains the lackadaisical pace, but with less vulnerability; the full vocals and instrumentation make one final appearance, reminding the listener of Corby’s newfound versatility.
I keep trying to find something negative to say about Telluric, but every argument against it seems weak somehow. Yes, perhaps around the three-quarter mark, it could be accused of slipping into monotony, but as soon as this starts to establish itself, a new beat of a tender lyrics slips in and wipes away any repetition. For a debut album, it is remarkable. The time Corby took on this record is evident in every beat, which makes it even more impressive that the end product didn’t end up as a pretentious, inaccessible set of immaculate tricks. There is still a little rawness, a little unpredictability and a lot of honesty to be found, and Corby gives just a little bit more with every listen.