James Mathé has had a distinguished career. Initially starting as a folk balladeer, the singer/songwriter and producer was a member of Fence Collective and was an original member of the critically acclaimed indie electro folk act Junip, along with Jose Gonzalez. As Mathé began to increasingly experiment with electronics in his own songwriting, he decided to go solo, releasing his debut effort, Bloodlines under the moniker of Barbarossa in 2013 to critical applause across the blogosphere.
Co-produced by Ash Workman, Mathé’s third full-length effort, Imager is reportedly informed by a phenomenon in London that should feel all too familiar to New Yorkers – the gradual disappearance of beloved creative and cultural hubs, which creates the sense that your city is changing in a way that no one really likes, and that something vital and necessary is being erased before your eyes.
Imager’s first single, the album title track “Imager” pairs Mathé’s ethereal falsetto layers of cascading synths and skittering yet propulsive drum programming to create a sound that evokes the feelings of existential anxiousness and despair that come about when you see a familiar place disappear and the often unsubtle reminders that time will inevitably phase you out. But as the narrator of the song sings with quiet yet forceful resolve that belies the sadness of the material “I will survive. . . “ If one thing can be said both the single “Imager” and the album Imager will cement Mathé’s reputation for crating deeply arresting pop music.
The recently released official video possesses an extremely anxious sensibility as it follows Mathé – and his doppleganger – through a overcast forest. And through it brings up the question of “Who’s following who? Who’s chasing and who’s being chased?” That is until the video reveals that the protagonist’s doppleanger is just a feverish figment of his imagination.