Proposed alternate title: The Unbearable Lightness of Being Mathew Jonson. No disrespect to the aerodynamic spelling of the producer's name or his trancey leanings intended—it's just that his second LP shows the strain of the DJ's nomadic lifestyle. Her Blurry Pictures is a world-weary and succinct album, one suggesting that Jonson could use a break from his hectic schedule to repair nerves frayed by too many early-morning sets and too much time spent in airports. Ironically, the fatigue has snapped his talents into sharper focus. And it doesn't prevent the Canadian musician—now based in Berlin and, in the off season, Goa—from throwing down his usual brand of club banger.
Jonson's tracks have a distinct feel, although Her Blurry Pictures does find him leaving room for a few unexpected details. The album opens with its most overtly Jonson-branded track, "Level 7." Offering a scuffed-up take on the style he distilled on last year's tunnelling "Panna Cotta," "Level 7" revolves around a panic-attack arpeggio and gummy, heavy kick drums—it's as homey as it is claustrophobic. Here, Jonson approaches techno by creating rich textures and then putting them in uneasy, paranoid relationships. He reprises that familiar twinge of discomfort—varnished with a plasticky, Perlon sheen—on later tracks like "Kissing Your Eyes" and "Body in Motion." There's always been some amount of edge to his work, but those subliminal tensions poke into the foreground just enough here, making Her Blurry Pictures a more convincing listen than 2010's sometimes-interminable Agents of Time.
"Illusions of Control" plants some variety early on in the album, downshifting Her Blurry Pictures into desolate, anhedonic electro-funk of the Conforce variety earlier and more purposefully than Agents. But Jonson breaks some new ground, too, particularly on tracks like "Sahara" and the formidable "Lightweight Champion." The former, along with the spacey, rumbling smooth jazz of the titular closer, gives the vaguely beleaguered dance vibes found elsewhere some space to unwind. On "Sahara," Jonson capriciously drags a veil of pitch-bent keys over a cramped beat—a strange alliance of unapologetic exoticism and experimentalism, it sounds like something fourth-world guru Jon Hassell should get a co-writing credit for. On the aggressive end of the spectrum, "Lightweight Champion"'s distorted electro kicks are devastating and decisive—a new look for the producer's clubbier fare.
An effortless, catatonic undercurrent carries listeners through Her Blurry Pictures and somehow, it manages to put the subliminal neuroticism of Mathew Jonson's music at the center of the listening experience while remaining pleasant to listen to. The fact that someone can dance to it is secondary. It's enough just to be along for the jet-lagged ride. We want Mathew Jonson to get some rest, but a dash of liminality goes a long way on this record.