By Julia Reidy
Mathis Hunter, longtime mainstay of the Atlanta music community, former member of The Selmanaires and one of the founders of psych-funk collective Noot d’Noot, puts forth his first solo effort with Soft Opening. The LP spans 10 tracks and makes good on all of Hunter’s already demonstrated predispositions: creative percussion, saxophone, psychedelic soundscapes and haunting guitar melodies. It’s a masterful continuation of the train of thought that makes up his career, not a departure from it.
“Gathering the Hopeful Gamblers,” for example, features pervasive tenor sax just like Noot d’Noot does (of course, Hunter’s friends from other projects perform on Soft Opening). But its driving guitar and less blissed-out delivery suggests a determination from Hunter alone that is perhaps harder to reach as a member of a larger collective — it’s more restrained.
Likewise, “Gone” has something of a Southern spiritual vibe to it, complete with electric organ and multi-part vocal harmonies. Even this more minimal composition, though — one that rests heavily on a sweetly repeating theme and tapping tambourine — has been treated with noodling psychedelic guitars behind it. And while “Endless Psalm Sound” demonstrates more of a pop sensibility than many of the other tracks, just as the unceasing Dave Sitek hum never leaves TV on the Radio releases, the low-level, noisy guitar backdrop never deserts Soft Opening, even at it’s most sunny and major. Combined with lyrics that treat the interconnectedness of it all with something like happy resignation, the album takes on a calm, almost nostalgic feel.
In the end, though, all of Soft Opening’s songs have a grainy, sleepy quality to them like they’re one step removed from reality, one step away from sober consciousness. They’re all a little tentative, perhaps, like a restaurant’s so-named soft opening. Hunter has one foot in the door, trying out what he’s got, looking for feedback. The next step can only be even more delicious.