Matt Madden’s Late-’80s Instrumental Music

Ambient music from the comics artist who plays with form

Matt Madden is best known as a comics artist. His work plays with form, notably in his book 99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style. I’ve known Matt for over 20 years, having edited comics he produced for Tower Records Pulse! magazine back in the 1990s and early 2000s. (Here’s an essay I wrote about one of them: “Home Decorating in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.”) He also allowed the Disquiet Junto early on, for its 14th project, back in April 2012, to riff on his 99 Ways book.

Despite all of which, I wasn’t fully aware he himself made music. He’s begun posting some of his old work at a new SoundCloud account, The first track he uploaded, “Telepathy,” dates from 1988. It’s a short, slow, introspective piece. It brings to mind various threads of what would come to coalesce in part as trip-hop, as well as illbient. There are bits of what we’d come to associate later with “Money” Mark Nishita’s funky-sodden organ grooves, and Kid Koala’s sad-sack, muddled beatcraft. A guitar, trying to soar with weighted-down wings, brings manages to bring to mind both Robert Fripp’s echoing guitar loops and Adrian Belew’s chatty six-string birdsong (in particular “The Sheltering Sky” off Discipline). There’s something fitting about hearing amorphous ambient music from an artist whose visual work is often fixated on the rigors of form.

Back to the present, Madden has lately been providing music for Out on the Wire, a series of podcasts by his wife, Jessica Abel (whose comics work I’ve also edited), relating to her new book by that name, Out on the Wire: The Storytelling Secrets of the New Masters of Radio, for which Ira Glass wrote the foreword. Check it out at

“Telepathy” originally posted at More from Madden at

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