Emperor X is a pop/noise/folk music project headed by American songwriter and sound artist C. R. Matheny. A former high school science teacher, he dropped out of a graduate physics program in 2004 to focus on music. Over the next eight years, he released a string of critically-acclaimed lo-fi speed folk and grabbed the attention of writers at NPR, Pitchfork, The New Yorker, the Los Angeles Times, The Huffington Post, Said the Gramophone, and dozens of other music blogs. Reviewers compared Matheny's tracks to The Microphones, Black Dice, and early Modest Mouse. Salon.com ranked his Bar/None Records release _Western Teleport_ among the most overlooked albums of 2011 and termed his music "wonderfully bizarre...[and] triumphant in its deep empathy and humanity."
Said the Gramophone/McSweeney's writer Sean Michaels described the lyrics of Emperor X songs as both "ghosted" and "precise": they discuss subjects as diverse as plate tectonics, paramilitary insurgencies, religious fanaticism, the nature of time, failed attempts to fix broken air conditioners, and Matheny's poetical obsession with rapid transit systems. He tours the United States very frequently, usually traveling on public buses and bringing only what he can carry in a small backpack and guitar case. Emperor X also completed several international tours including trips to Mexico, Canada, and Australia.
“...one of the most creative things I've ever heard of.”
- Huffington Post
“Evoking a strange world, it sounds like it’s played on 20th-century instruments excavated during the 22nd century and jury-rigged for tentative amplification. The sustain pedal on the piano is perpetually stuck, the guitars flare and flicker like fireworks, and a low-level headache hum thrums underneath every note. It’s a wonderfully bizarre idea of what rock music can be, and is matched only by the whimsy and imagination of Matheny’s lyrics, which cycle through various perspectives...It’s a lively and eccentric record, yet triumphant in its deep empathy and humanity.”
“...an absolute victory lap...”
- Tiny Mix Tapes
“...enviable for its utter lack of pretentiousness, perfect imperfections...a magnificent jumble of uncertainty...If you’re looking for the real America, leave that last Arcade Fire record behind and follow Emperor X...."
“a hell of a ride...upbeat in the midst of chaos, its clattering, jostling mix of sounds barely fitting into the space allowed. It’s a rush, despite the dark lyrics, and you have a sense of running headlong and ecstatic — perhaps to escape danger, perhaps simply for the joy of it.”
“Music to Occupy Wall St. by...the best anyone can expect with the power going out all the time.”
“The Best of What’s Next, 2011 -- He shouts, stomps, flails like an excited toddler, and generally as much noise as he can. He’s performed in a laser tag arena, flash-mobbed a Los Angeles pedestrian tunnel, set up after hours in a Post Office lobby, played a generator-powered set under the 710 freeway in Long Beach, and paraded around the streets of Manhattan with an acoustic guitar and audience in tow. He often assembles backing bands whose members meet just minutes before shows—he recently recruited a motley woodwind section via Craigslist the day of his highest profile New York gig to date—and he directs these ragtag ensembles through his chaotic indie-pop songs with the fervor of a coked-up preschool teacher.”
- Paste Magazine
“Emperor X is so special because of his particular voice. It is lo-fi pop but it is not from the bedroom, the basement - it feels like it is from the Greyhound, the MacBook, the wi-fi'ed park bench. On 'Erica Western Teleport' he namedrops Firewire and Battlestar Galactica, he suggests you go get some exercise. Yet it is not hokey or "funny", the work of a punchline-slinging folkster. It is simply precise. Muddy, catchy, personal, persistent - and precise. In this way, Chad Matheny reminds me of certain rappers: The Streets, Lil Wayne, Lil B, Big Boi. These are MCs who rap whatever images feel rightest, and fuck the universal. Sometimes our longings are broad, sometimes they are very precise.”
- Said the Gramophone
“The music is a delightful slice of thoughtful indie pop that will leave you with thoughts about the pros and cons of, yup, modern public transportation.”
- Impose Magazine
Photo credit: Stephanie Gonot