Technically An Introduction to Failure is a double EP but as it has eight tracks in total, I’m classifying it as an album review … calling it an EP review wouldn’t hint at the length of the work, and it would also suggest that, as the name suggests, it’s merely an introduction to Matsiko, when really this is a complete work.
The first half – the first EP – is reflective, ruminative and minor-keyed, while the second half kicks off with a relatively more jaunty tune and turns back to make a musical circle by the close. From the first song, ‘Home’, Matsiko’s voice has a hook in it that will either catch you or not. There’s a sense of sadness there – perhaps it’s just longing, but the fact that it’s ambiguous (to this listener, at least) means that Matsiko knows to allow room for the listener to bring their own interpretations.
Matsiko was born in the United Kingdom to Ugandan parents and has been playing guitar from a young age. An Introduction to Failure is said to feature ‘fractured folk techniques’ that have been influenced by musical discoveries from Matsiko’s heritage. That may well be the case, but what I hear is a collection of songs that, even when layered with instruments, sound stripped back to allow Matsiko’s voice to connect immediately with the listener. There is confidence in that: Matsiko is not hiding behind anything, and he’s not letting the listener hide either.
Categorising music – as folk, country, rock, pop, and so many others – while necessary, can sometimes make a potential listener turn away from work they may enjoy (this is never more true than in country music, where the mere application of the label can cause an adverse reaction in someone who declares they ‘never listen to country music’ but in the same breath will anoint Ryan Adams as their favourite artist). This is a roundabout way of saying that maybe Matsiko is folk, and maybe he’s other things, but ‘singer-songwriter’ is the label that seems to fit best. So if you like singer-songwriters of any stripe, you may well like this fine example of the form.