From the first very moment of the track “Map Dilations” — a succinct and sure inhale, rather than a musical note — there’s something quirky and trancelike about the album Lungfiddle, Adam Matlock’s newest foray into experimental accordion music. Lungfiddle asks the listener to stay.
Wait it out, the music suggests even at the first hint of discord. You’ve got to hear what’s coming next. A clean, quickening loop of 10 notes yields to slight confusion, as if Matlock’s fingers are slipping just slightly. A slight buzz and drone enter the aural frame, swelling just enough to wear on the listener. Notes become fragmented, then frenetic. Keys and buttons click audibly as Matlock’s hands move across them.
In another musical universe, a record is catching, vinyl and needle duking it out with each other before they come to some agreement, and the song can proceed. And suddenly, you realize — ears first, of course — that that’s the entire point of the album.
Titled after local musician Matlock’s affectionate nickname for his accordion, Lungfiddle insists on a music that defies narrative for something more nuanced, sometimes confounding, and ultimately pretty delightful if you’re up for the ride. A sort of hybrid between his solo instrumental sets and a composition he was working through in June 2015, the album thrills in its relative intimacy, as though Matlock is there, taking risks alone, and suddenly you are around to witness it. It’s privilege and responsibility not for the uninventive among us, where everything seems as necessary as that initial breath: The gentle clack and sticking of the keys, a whoosh of static in certain pieces, long notes in which the song becomes impossible to ignore.
In “Bantonne,” for instance, simple scales bloom into something gorgeous and disruptive, the melody so dizzy from chasing its tail that it falls to the floor, and keeps going. “Many Worlds,” meanwhile, is interested in the singsong quality of the instrument. “Shudder Hymn” is more hymn than shudder, but draws on the ideas of breath, silence, and the concept of sound and spontaneity in a way that keeps listeners on their toes.
And then there are the Lungfiddle sketches, three tracks that talk to each other without turning into something like Jóhann Jóhannsson’s orchestral, narrative-driven Fordlândia because of the spareness with which Matlock has chosen, blissfully, to work. In these, too, Matlock surprises. There are notes so delicate and quick they have the quality of flickering candlelight, points at which it seems that all forms of communication — hand to accordion, accordion to surrounding space, breath to body to instrument — have broken down, just to get built up again.
I don’t know a lot about experimental accordion music. In fact, I don’t know anything about experimental accordion music. This leaves a listener like me with a lot of questions. But the answer, of course, is to shake off the questions and just listen, because Lungfiddle is pretty amazing, question marks and all.