Foundation Sounds

Eric Matthews

This one is different. This time there is something new that greatly contributes to the special nature of the way this album sounds. On this album, the core sound is that of the standard rock combo augmented by piano, brass, and woodwind instruments. But that’s not what’s different. On this album, for the first time, Matthews is heard playing all of the instruments, including drums and a few others he has never played on his own albums. Some of his heroes, like Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney, had done it and Matthews felt inspired to take on the same ambitious challenge. Not to show off, prove a point, or any of the darker motivations, but instead as a service to the songs and to the sound he wanted to achieve, free of outside influence or guest-star nuance. Intending to better define this particular set of songs, this one is different because this time, it’s pure Eric Matthews!

Also available for those who appreciate the fine art of arrangement is a limited edition EP with five, beautifully crafted, exclusive songs.


With last year’s re-release of Cardinal’s one and only album, it’s prime time for co-founder Eric Matthews to make an appearance. A welcome one? You bet. Matthews has a voice most Pet Sounds-lovin’ Zombie-philes would re-orchestrate their testicles for. Partly sonorous, but breathy and yet totally clear, it’s just the sort of thing that should be backed up by strings, horns and clipped rhythm guitar. In short, he’s a man in need of his own Hal Blaine-assisted Wrecking Crew. While Foundation Sounds doesn’t provide all that, it is a pretty extensive look into the confessional, pop splendor that Matthews’ own testes were prearranged to execute. “Our House” finds the songbird at his best, making economical baroque pop with quick, sweeping changes ’round the chorus. “The Fly” is a shuffling, especially breathy tune that finds him jaunty, ducking and weaving as the guitarist drops a little noir-ish twang and the trombone pipes in. If you like your pop refined, it’s hard to find someone as dedicated to the cause as Matthews.

Do it yourself. It’s a credo Eric Matthews now lives by whether playing every note on his latest, Foundation Sounds, or renovating the old Oregon church he and his wife call home. “I’m a creative person,” Matthews notes. “I have sort of a never-ending burst of creative energy, and it needs to be fulfilled somehow.”

After turns in the ’90s semi-spotlight in short-lived band Cardinal and a with pair of well-received chamber-pop albums (It’s Heavy In Here and The Lateness Of The Hour) on Sub Pop classically trained handyman Matthews has since hammered out a life working on others’ music (that’s his trumpet on records by Ivy, Tahiti 80 and the Dandy Warhols) and making his music on his own terms.

Not that he doesn’t miss former collaborators like Jason Falkner, now playing guitar with Paul McCartney. “I actually made myself a bracelet, just as a joke,” Matthews reveals. “‘What would Jason do?'”

One thing Matthews has in common with both McCartney and Falkner is an ability to be utterly self-reliant in the studio. Those kinds of albums, Matthews says, “for me, mean more. Not because [the artist] played everything, but there’s a mysterious, sort of invisible element that occurs when one guy who came up with all the parts is actually playing all the parts.”

The result, on Foundation Sounds, is a basic but beautiful statement carried out with rock instrumentation, augmented by touches of brass, woodwind and harpsichord and accompanied by Matthews’ breathy, oft-multi-tracked voice. And not only did the multitalented Matthews play and sing every note, but he had a hand in building the home studio where it was recorded, as well.

“I’ll probably be able to build my own house in 10 years,” the well-rounded musician says. “I’ll probably learn how to do everything. We’ll see.”

Eric Matthews is an intriguing though somewhat veiled musician, a man whose ambitions sometimes overtake the realities of his indie constraints. He admits as much in the liner notes of this, his fourth album since the split of his equally ambitious combo, Cardinal, which he co-helmed with another talented pop practitioner, Richard Davies. Matthews says that his original desire was to slowly divest himself of all the standard rock regalia guitars, drums etc. and develop a new type of orchestral accompaniment. He hasn’t quite succeeded here the foundation of Foundation Sounds is supplied primarily by a supple weave of guitar, piano and woodwinds but he has created a setting that’s more baroque than rock, a richly textured ambiance weighed down by heavy-lidded sentiment and nocturnal musings. “Survive” and “All The Clowns” provide some much needed revelry but elsewhere, especially on the aptly-titled “Start of the Meltdown,” Matthews hints at a struggle over his hazy intents. “I’m the man nobody knows,” he laments. How much distance he intends to keep between these dark, ruminating melodies (a shadowy veneer that’s even reflected in the closeted cover photo) remains to be seen, but in fact, may be of little concern. The haunting, hypnotic ambiance and a striking, shimmering beauty that are shielded in these songs makes Matthews’ music all the more intriguing and compelling. Add to the fact that he performs on all the instruments, and he emerges as a singular talent who shines darkly through every encounter.
– Lee Zimmerman


  1. Our House
  2. Sorry
  3. Gold
  4. When You Should Be There
  5. Death Of In Between
  6. Survive
  7. This Chance
  8. Watch the Sky
  9. Courage
  10. All the Clowns
  11. More Than I Can Give
  12. All That Remains
  13. Start of the Meltdown
  14. Sounds of Flight
  15. The Fly
  16. And the World Will Go
  17. Till This Story Ends

Released: 2006-09-01

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