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The Mattoid's music is genuinely unique, melding folk, world, and good old rock and roll. He even has his own signature guitar rhythm style he calls "sango" music. His manner is humble but his ideas are grandiose. The Mattoid has spent years performing as an artist and writer shying away from the mainstream but his vision is one that believes the smallest flower growing in the garbage dump can make it to the top of the charts. Though he is an accomplished guitar player and operatic singer, The Mattoid tends to let his performance artist side trump the technical aspects of his music. Because of the absurdity of his performance, the mechanics of his music are easy to over look sometimes. Listening closely, there is an undercurrent of many influences that is noticeable. The minimalist approach he takes towards his rhythm allows for a world of possibilities within his songs and offers a catchy and infectious sound for listeners.
The lyric writing is another noteworthy item of The Mattoid. Like his performance concepts, the lyrics suggest an immediate air of aloof silliness or predilection towards fractured musings on life, death, and general happiness. Underneath this outward appearance is a genuine sincerity, penned in painstakingly minimalist fashion. He consciously chooses almost banal or mundane ways to word his thoughts and results in something either truly brilliant or something that sounds like he needs to work on his English vocabulary a little bit more. The Mattoid is most happy when he can be interpreted in as many ways possible.
The Mattoid's creed of musician is a dying breed among the landscape of contemporary music. This wandering troubadour has been all over the globe and has refined his ideas almost to the point of obsession. He can play the same set to country writers, rock n rollers, hard-core enthusiasts, hillbillies, gospel singers and no telling who else but, in each case, he manages to amuse, frighten, and inspire all the same.
I witnessed a spectacle last Friday night at the Sutler in Nashville, Tennessee. Innocently installed at my usual Friday night perch around 7:00 p.m., I turned to see who was coming through the door (as we all do), and two of the strangest characters to be found on God's Good Earth strolled in. A striking, strapping bald-headed man in poncho, cap, and combat boots, and a statuesque, dark goddess-garbed, gold-painted lady floated by me to set up the stage for a show. I stayed. It was The Mattoid. At 9:30 p.m., a musical entrancement began. The man and his guitar, backed by a dressed-down drum kit and spot-on bass, and augmented with various combinations of a trio of strings, a mandolin, and the lady, gave me the experience of a lifetime. Apparently, the SRO crowd felt the same. His daunting appearance could only have charmed had his performance lived up to his look. And, oh ... it did. The band was tight; the songs were anthemic, intelligent, hilarious, and super-charged; the voice that carried us through them was powerful, deep, and full of character. When it was over, it was like being shocked out of a beautiful dream, and all I wanted to do was go back to sleep. So I bought the CD, "Hello," and it brings me straight back. Thanks, Mattoid, I needed that.
The Mattoid Hello Cleft Music mattoid \Mat"toid\, n. [It. matto mad (cf. L. mattus, matus, drunk) + -oid.] A person of congenitally abnormal mind bordering on insanity or degeneracy. A short while back a duo known as Poppy Fields nonchalantly took Nashville's underground by storm with their off-kilter shows. Perhaps you noticed, perhaps not. One part male Finn and one part female Israeli Ville Kiviniemi and partner Poppy wowed audiences with their giddy anti-folk. Ville's songs were cheeky, boisterous, infectious rock primitivism at its best. Lyrics like "crap your craps and f@#k your f@%ks, it's party time!" were nothing short of contagious. Poppy's plaintive meditations were filled with guitar ambience coaxed from a digital processor that shouldn't have been as charming as she made it. Though some found it off-putting, the oddball dichotomy of their performances was much of its appeal. But rock ecstasy is fickle and short-lived and after some time Poppy and Ville split. Following a brief stint as The Urban Peasant Kiviniemi stepped into the phone booth, emerged as The Mattoid and recruited an ensemble that would inform his performances with a decidedly rock bent. Now an album of his material produced by keyboardist Loney Hutchins is set to drop on Hutchins' embryonic Cleft Music label. The result, Hello, is a brilliant blend of garage rock minimalism and folk/lounge balladry paired with razor sharp wit and a blustering vocal barrage. The highlights throughout are The Mattoid's galloping vocal histrionics. Listeners will be hard-pressed to make heads or tails of these utterances. Attempts to spell them will be fruitless. All this said, it's difficult to pin The Mattoid down. Amid claims of being heir to the throne of Finland and rumors that he's lived everywhere from London (where he reportedly met Poppy) to India (where he studied sitar), sold sterling silver in Mexico and wandered in the wilderness for half a decade, it has become all but impossible to unravel the puzzle of this enigmatic figure. Has he fathered scores of illegitimate children throughout the globe? Did he swim the English Channel while in the throws of an absinthe binge? Is it true that he got his start playing Beatles songs before he could speak English? All contribute to the smoke-and-mirrors perception of this inscrutable figure. All speculation aside, The Mattoid is not wanting for confidence. Hello's opening cut, "Funeral Party," is backed by a crowd track and enough reverb to simulate that The Mattoid and his band are on an arena stage before an adoring crowd. A bold move to be sure. Should this be read as arrogant bravado, or is it merely foreshadowing of the Mattoid's future as the crown prince of Finnish rock? The proof is in the pudding. Right on baby. -Ryan Norris, Nashville Rage Contributer - Carol Nelson, an innocent observer