Throughout a storied career that’s found him sharing stages with such forward-pushing artists as BAD BRAINS, BLACK REBEL MOTORCYCLE CLUB, CALEXICO, QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE and NIRVANA, American-born, Austria-based musician and songwriter, MATT BOROFF, continues to take his passionate brand of music to new heights. For years he has excelled at luring audiences into new and exciting terrain, from experimental noise-rock to his years spent expanding the standard alternative-rock template with the Mirrors. Now he takes things a step further on his second full-length solo album, and his first since 2009, SWEET HAND OF FATE, which was self-released on January 14, 2014 on the independent label REVVOLT RECORDS.
Sweet Hand of Fate features ten comp-elling tracks in which Boroff plunges the listener into fully realized worlds, creating an immersive work that feels cinematic in scope. A talented multi-instrumentalist, he plays, guitar, bass, piano, organ, drums and percussion and self-produced the record at Mosqito Studios in Austria. The album features a guest appearance by alt-rock legend MARK LANEGAN, who displays his harrowing vocals on the track,“GARBAGE MAN,” in addition to performances by Little Konzett (drums), and trombone by Bernhard Forti, Thomas Halfer, and Mathias Nicolussi on various tracks.
Discussing the record Boroff says, “I basically wanted to craft an album that had the flavor, the tone, the mood of some of the films that I’ve found inspiring, like the work of David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick, Quentin Tarantino, Federico Fellini and many more. I didn’t necessarily want to create a film soundtrack, but rather songs that could become films in your mind’s eye.”
That approach is evident from the first moments of the album opener, “LOST,” which is a fitting introduction, establishing a questing spirit that permeates the album, filled with characters who feel at odds with the world around them. As a searing guitar swirls over a subtly foreboding backdrop of horns and piano, echoing Boroff’s evocation of “sirens… moaning down the highway /drawing me to your light like I was a moth. ”As the tension builds, the narrator asserts his desire to escape to something beyond the here and now, declaring “I wanna get lost” with increasing urgency.
While many of the songs share some common themes, each stands as a distinct entity, establishing a separate viewpoint in the lyrics and music. In fact, the album’s sonic palette stretches from the Old World vibe of “Garbage Man”, to the insistent drums and jagged guitar riff of “UP UP UP IN FLAMES.” Elsewhere, ethereal guitar work evokes the Spaghetti Western soundtracks of Ennio Morricone on “FILLING IN THE CRACKS,” while the choir that echoes Boroff’s ominous vocals on “MY BLACK HEART” adds an otherworldly chill.
“I didn’t set out to write about anything particular,” Boroff says of the lyrics. “I always just try to give a voice to something that I already hear in the music.” That process resulted in recurring references to diving and descent, an image that underlines the album’s echoing themes of release and liberation—“this need to go through something cathartic,” he says, “something that you’re going to emerge on the other side of transformed.”
Boroff’s musical career began in the Nineties, performing his own brand of experimental noise-rock across the northeast and playing solo gigs in New York City. In 2000, he relocated to Austria, where he met drummer Little Konzett and formed the basis of what would become Matt Boroff & the Mirrors, releasing a self-titled debut album to critical acclaim in 2004. With full-time bassist Rolf Kersting added to the fold, the band punched up its sound with slabs of driving rock and roll, sun-bleached grooves and jittery evocations of West Coast punk on 2006’s Ticket to Nowhere.
As the band gelled and continued amassing a fervent following, it ventured even further into new realms on 2008’s Elevator Ride, conjuring images of Spaghetti Westerns and sweeping desert landscapes. Given Boroff’s penchant for cinematic imagery, it was hardly surprising when five tracks from Elevator Ride appeared on the soundtrack to the 2009 film “LITTLE FISH, STRANGE POND.” His 2009 solo debut, Reaching for Sparks weaved muted arrangements (guitar, piano, strings, horns and timpani), cementing Boroff’s reputation for creating arresting music across a variety of styles. In 2012, he released the four-song EP “Filling in the Cracks,” a concise mini-album that connected the dots between the musical imagery of “ELEVATOR RIDE” and the atmospherics of “REACHING FOR SPARKS.”
It’s rare in this day and age to find a veteran artist who hasn’t settled into a comfortable groove after more than twenty years, but continually pushing at the boundaries of his craft, Sweet Hand of Fate is a bold work brimming with atmosphere, mystery, passion and complex aural detail. Through it all, Boroff hooks the listener with his expressive vocal delivery, lyrical imagery and expansive musical environments.