For someone who has positioned himself behind the steering wheel over multiple ascensions of acts including Odd Future, Jet Age of Tomorrow, the Internet, and Kilo Kish, Matt Martians as a musician seems to exist exclusively in a self-created black hole, hitchhiking the breaking point between tangible identity and extraneous haze. Fittingly to his unconventional artistry, Matt Martians does not have even a single social media account and his interviews are few and far between. The weight of publicizing Matt Martians’ solo music is – at least on a tertiary level and from the front – primarily carried by famous bandmates and associates.
The underlying (yet defining) crux of each point, notably, is that one does not see Matt Martians–– one only hears him. Somehow, the musical movement he has championed is one that stands as an amalgam of all things opposite his chosen persona: Jet Age of Tomorrow built its brand on in-your-face funk from untapped universal wormholes; the Internet’s essence continued a sentence left unfinished by black soul acts of yesteryear; and Odd Future was, well… Odd Future. Through it all, the influence of Martians made itself known, not by onstage gimmicks or comically hyper-extroverted eccentricity, but by a consistent sound that was just as foundationally tactile as it was auditory.
The very first trace of his distinct tonality was through Voyager, Jet Age of Tomorrow’s 2010 debut LP. Alongside rapper/producer Pyramid Vritra, Martians bounded his way through uncanny instrumental concoctions and wore their collective otherworldliness as a badge rather than a defect. In fact, Jet Age of Tomorrow actually originated from the repurposing of instrumentals turned down by Tyler, the Creator and Hodgy Beats. “Hercules Cup” saw thrashing percussions forced into immersion with a shamelessly off-key, computer-processed guitar solo. “Orange Juice Simpson” – the track sampled by Kendrick Lamar in “A.D.H.D” – forced a leftfield bass riff and an increasingly formless succession of musical additions to coexist with fundamental cloud rap (typical in acts like $ilkmoney and ICYTWAT). “Can I Hold Your Hand?” featured an shamelessly childish, high-pitched, low-key annoying robot voice that repeated the titular proposition as if we, the listeners, were its notoriously neglectful long-lost mother.
Move the clock 7 years forward with the release of Martians’ debut solo album The Drum Chord Theory, which plays on similar dynamics (although maybe more implicitly than explicitly so). In Martians’ most popular solo track, “Dent Jusay,” he pairs a synthesizer that uncontrollably spirals up with choral harmonies that are almost mentally unmatchable to the isolated backing track. The first half of “Spend the Night / If You Were My GF” is a near-serpentine drawing out of slinky, sensual proposals that are too far-out for mainstream radio (albeit also not driven enough to fly on 181.FM). Meanwhile, the second half is a reiteration of the very same high-pitched inflection from “Can I Hold Your Hand?”, but this time, begging us to be its girlfriend and promising us a fruitful future if we are to say yes. “Diamond In Da Ruff” is perhaps the most conventional semblage of old school instrumental funk music throughout the entire record. The song features a speedrun of jivey ebonic attitude, followed by a skit played out by the studio musicians themselves (*Apple Ringtone* “Yeah, pick up the phone nigga”…”Why is she calling me???”… “Uh…hello?”), which is in turn followed by a completely different bass/synth-championed warble of angry female characters.
Up front, Matt Martians’ music is an unapologetic testament to his secluded nature (or perhaps more of a crude documentation of a personal layer that is seldom ever seen by the mass audiences he attracts). His moniker alone, being an offshoot of his birth name Matthew Martin, serves to suggest exactly what his creative output sounds like: a convoluted extraplanetary radio transmission from Mars that we have yet to fully understand. As his career progresses, the side of him that exists solely in his self-created black hole has stationed every bit of communication we see from the other side.
Matt Martians isn’t ever going to talk to you personally. Matt Martians isn’t ever going to post on social media (or even open an account). You’re never going to hear Matt Martians in any other context but his music. So listen to it now.