Kansas CIty’s place in musical history often obscures the vibrant and ambitious scene of the present in favor of nostalgia. One of the city’s most exciting sonic residents is San Mateo, an electronic artist proving that nostalgia can also play a part in forward-leaning music. The project of producer Matthew Naquin, San Mateo bends soundscapes and fuzzy rhythms, filtered through film grain and lo-fi aesthetics. These songs are irresistibly melodic while strangely familiar, steeped in a tingling feeling of a shadow caught by the corner of an eye.
The project’s name is multi-faceted but bound in this recurring nostalgia, referencing a childhood nickname and an often visited locale. The thread of remembrance and innocence guides San Mateo as Naquin steers warm emotion and intention from his electronics. Influences range from post-rock to instrumental hip-hop to the innovating sounds of Boards of Canada and Bonobo. But Naquin holds the visual arts as most influential, including the internally visual terrain of literature. Says Naquin, “I want to write the musical equivalent to the book House of Leaves.”
It then should not surprise that, to San Mateo, the visual element is just as essential as the music. An active graphic designer and artist, Naquin supplies canvases and videos to accompany San Mateo’s songs. Naquin says, “San Mateo is first and foremost an art project … I try to see every piece as part of a larger whole.” These visual pieces mirror the dream-like sense that flavors the project’s sound.
Naquin also embellishes songs with scenes from real life, thanks to a clandestine microphone that joins him on his travels. For example, the track “Dioses Veraderos” ends with a conversation Naquin had with a Belizean man among the Mayan ruins. “So people should be aware,” says Naquin. “If you are having a particularly interesting conversation with me you might be on the next record.”