Mathew Jonson's path to becoming one of the most revered techno producers of the 2000s began, strangely enough, in a bagpipe band. Seven years old at the time, he played marching snare drum behind his adult counterparts. Through high school in his native Vancouver, he was enrolled in jazz and classical classes. At some point after graduation, he attended school for recording engineering but found it draining and dropped out. During the late ‘90s, he was immersed in drum’n’bass and DJ’d through the tail end of the decade, until he found himself drawn toward the odd minimal techno released on labels like Trelik and Perlon.
DreamWorks was technically the first label to release Jonson’s own work. As Decibel, he remixed a pair of fellow Canadian Nelly Furtado's singles, “Party’s Just Begun (Again)” and “Turn Off the Light.” From 2001-2003, he issued a series of singles on Itiswhatitis that raised his profile with each release. “Typerope” caught fire with high-profile DJs like of Ricardo Villalobos and Richie Hawtin, and at that point he had already developed an instantly identifiable analog sound. In 2005, his reach spread to Sub Static, Arbutus, and Hawtin’s M_nus, highlighted by “Decompression” — one of the year’s most polarizing tracks, featuring heavy-pressure bass frequencies that nodded toward Jonson’s drum’n’bass roots.
A move toward increasingly abstract material coincided with Jonson’s co-founding of the Wagon Repair label. From 2005 through 2010, the majority of his releases came out on WR, and they often strayed so far from the dancefloor — so far from the dark, warped neo-trance sound that could have been milked for years — that he shed devotees. Some of his most creative material came from this period, including “When Love Feels Like Crying,” a sparse, 11-minute tearjearker as touching and emotive as the first few minutes of Carl Craig's “At Les.” Jonson finally released his first album, Agents of Time, on Wagon Repair in 2010. Also a frequent collaborator, he recorded extensively with the four-member Cobblestone Jazz (aka the Modern Deep Left Quartet), Midnight Operator (with his brother Daniel), and with Luciano. ~ Andy Kellman