Review: Matmos – The Marriage of True Minds
Published on February 5th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
San Francisco duo M.C. Schmidt and Drew Daniel have long since established their ingenious way with synaesthetic electronics, but they retain the capacity to surprise and amaze by dint of the experiments, concepts and self-imposed limitations that shape their ever-mesmerising output. It’s Daniel’s turn to dictate the play on The Marriage of True Minds, and he’s come up with an absolute humdinger: a suite of tracks crafted around the perceptions of people whose minds he attempted to transmit the concept of the album into via telepathy. If that sounds at once high-brow and completely absurd…well, welcome to the world of Matmos.
Humour and intelligence have always contested some kind of mad grapple for power in their work, and once again they’ve constructed a venue that’s brimming with colour, vibrancy, eclecticism, painstaking attention to detail and brain-frazzlingly hallucinatory properties. Opener “You” kicks of proceedings with a sweetly echoing piano motif set to the immediately satisfying popping, clacking and scraping of ‘found sounds’ percussion, then introduces a sweetly uttered female vocal and the occasional good-natured twang of bass.
It’s as if Lemon Jelly were wading through a particularly spaced-out yet sun-kissed acid trip – it sounds and feels so crystal clear but not in an off-puttingly ‘sheeny’ way, while the attendant muttering about a “friend’s house” casts the delightful tableau of Daniel sitting opposite an acquaintance, trying to feed the contents of his brain into theirs and furiously scribbling down their responses in a notebook. “Time jumps like some magic rebound” says a male voice, and another subject was presumably entertaining the notion of very large green triangles, given that this is the title of the following track.
“Very Large Green Triangles” begins with pangs of piano, string and some slurry, drugged-sounding voice all in oddly staggered melodic unison – someone talks about envisioning the titular imagery amidst faintly creepy tinkles of music box (or a commendably in-tune thumb piano) before it all acquires an urgent beat and breaks into a berserk little stomp like some more sinisterly minded version of Fantasma-era Cornelius.
“Mental Radio” is like the maddest carnival ever dreamt up, its panned-out sirens liable to have you pausing to check if they’re coming from outside, while the straightforwardly titled “Ross Transcript” presumably does good by its protagonist’s impressions with farmyard animal noises, a ringing telephone and what sounds like pages being turned.
The shuddering, twittering rubber groove of “Teen Paranormal Romance” welcomes aboard some ravey synth arpeggios as it slithers funkily onwards, paving the way for “Tunnel” to register a bit like Aphex Twin’s “Digeridoo” bouncing around on something that lies somewhere in between pogo stick and pneumatic drill in the ‘insistent’ stakes. Furthermore, it ends with a chesty splutter and subsequent laughing fit that instantly brings to mind the words ‘toked too hard’ but in fact does not stem from this – stay tuned for our Matmos interview for more about that.
“In Search of a Lost Faculty” is quite the bizarre wilderness, based as it is around various recorded observations concerning triangles each followed by a loud TRRRRING! sound and some whirring resonance. One chap envisions “a kind of triangular shape – I don’t know if that’s musical, but I guess a triangle is a musical instrument – so, a triangle?”, which neatly channels into the kind of cross-sensory thinking that makes The Marriage of True Minds, like all Matmos albums, so gosh darn satisfying.
After the fluttery mind-blown-iness of “Aetheruc Vehicle”, it’s left to “ESP” to bring the curtain down in faintly scary fashion, an isolated growl intoning “DO YOU BELIEVE IN ESP? IIII! DOOO!” in between crashes of drum. It then enters a forebodingly creaking death march, or at least a silly cartoon approximation thereof – then it’s time to take stock of everything you’ve just heard and prepare yourself for the next immersion. If you wish to delve deeper into the concept then Matmos’s Tumblr contains transcripts of the experiment, but if your sole desire is for something fun, challenging and mind-expanding/blowing to listen to, simply hit play and lose yourself in it.
An early contender for electronic album of the year is here and ready for to engage you on any number of levels. In these multimedia, multi-choice times, Matmos’s knack for marrying the intellectual to the just plain daft shines brighter than ever.
Rocksucker says: Four and a Half Quails out of Five!