Sadly, mixing issues saw that Matt Mondanile’s voice was only audible in the silence between songs in the Soup Kitchen basement. Not during his mellow compositions, just when he spoke to request louder vocals and less noise in his monitors. He also asked for a beer, perhaps to calm the nerves as he whizzed through a set of brand new songs on the first night of a 20-date European excursion.
Those who’ve watched the former Real Estate guitarist’s wonderful Against The Clock attempt for FACT Magazine — where artists, usually electronic, battle the clock to produce a track of note in their signature style — would’ve approached the low-key solo show with intrigue when it was announced by Now Wave in early Spring.
Mixing issues aside, the lazy reverb-laden guitar licks, loops and pre-programmed drum patterns brought a rich taste of New Jersey bliss to Manchester. The photography projected behind and onto the New Jerseyan provided a visual aesthetic to the lyrical content: quaint observations of life in slow-moving suburbs.
The woozy, laid-back — extremely sentimental — sound is soft and gorgeous on record. There, it's clear that Mondanile is an energetic, creative musician who’s completely honed into his dream-pop sound. Live, though, his sentimental words got lost in the layers of sound. Attention was then forcibly shifted to the sweet guitar riffs which are great, although the sometimes off-kilter drums seemed jarring over the drifting sound beneath and didn’t marry up.
In this instance, the first show road testing a potential new release, the teething problems were evident. Although the set built nicely following the best moment, ‘Headbanging in the Mirror’, off 2015 album St. Catherine (on influential London indie label Domino Records)
After what was essentially an instrumental jamming session, albeit with the help of looped pre-recordings, Mondanile — along with the evening’s support acts James Ferraro and Typhonian Highlife — now embarks enviable summer tour. He’s tripping to less-obvious destinations including San Sebastian, Gdańsk, Bologna, Florence and Vigo which should allow for the new material blossom before Ducktails becomes a full band experience once again.