Jean-Philip Grobler—largely known under the pseudonym St. Lucia—finds himself in a strange situation with Matter, namely that it bears a rather similar synth pop sound to the preceding album When The Night. There are some indie pop stylings thrown in to create some variety, but the only major change that happened was him stripping out most of the lush tropical atmosphere that helped him stand out in the first place and pushing his mild 80s influences to the forefront. What we’re left with is a decent, familiar collection of songs that has ultimately fallen prey to the dreaded sophomore slump.
The loss of that distinct tropical feel shows most on opener Do You Remember, which keeps a cool atmosphere with its echoing melodies and whimsical piano synths but lacks a real identity outside of a generic 80s inspiration. This holds true across most of the album, with even the most enjoyable songs feeling as if they could have come from anyone rather than from Grobler himself. The few moments where the tropics rear their head once more, such as on Stay, largely feel out of place on the album, as if there were an unsuccessful attempt to show his audience that he hadn’t strayed from his roots.
The moments where Matter truly finds its feet are the unabashed attempts to embrace the 80s sound, rather than trying to dance around it. The buzzing melody, skipping vocals and drum machine beats of Physical lure you in before its chorus explodes into a wall of sampled whooping vocals and euphoric synth arpeggios, sounding like a worthy 80s throwback revival rather than a simple love letter to the era. Help Me Run Away takes a simpler route, but both its frantic retro beat and Grobler’s attitude-laden vocal performance leave it as a worthy track that would easily pass as an 80s relic if not for the production values. The strength of these tracks—including additional standout Game 4 U—is welcome, but rather than enhancing the package as a whole, these tracks make the flaws of their neighbours even more apparent; they stand far too high above the rest for their own good.
This leaves Matter in the strange situation touched upon earlier; had its highs not been so high, and its lows not so low, it may have been much more appealing as a package. There’s no denying that the change in style had its pros, with Physical in particular standing tall as the most enjoyable song in St. Lucia’s discography, but it’s by no means an improvement over When The Night. Matter certainly isn’t a horrible album, but having to come after such a heavy hitter leaves it in a really disappointing position.