Matmos - The Marriage of True Minds
Diverse album a return to form for duo specialising in high-concept fun
For two decades now, Matmos have making music that goes way beyond the lazy stereotype often attributed to them - prankster boffins sticking microphones in inappropriate places and making glitchy techno from the results. Originally emerging during the post-rock wave of cerebral electronic experimentalists that included Mouse on Mars, Fennesz and fellow extreme sampling cohort Matthew Herbert, for Matmos, any academic rigour found in their often compelling music can be backed-up by the fact that both Drew Daniel and Martin Schmidt also hold professional lecturing posts.
Since their UK debut on the legendary FatCat Split series in 1999, a percentage of the duo's experiments may well have tried the patience of some fans, (2006's The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of a Beast was high on concept, low on tunes) but others have been great. A Chance to Cut is A Chance to Cure is excellent glitchy house, regardless of whether or not you know the samples originated from plastic surgery operations, while 2003's Civil War, a departure from cut-up mischievousness, showcased the their skills with real instruments - most noteably the hurdy-gurdy - to great effect.
Their first album in five years, The Marriage of True Minds is also one of their most diverse. Messy guitar-techno pounder 'Tunnel' sits alongside the occasionally-beautiful sound design collage 'In Search of A Lost Faculty', Chillwave-esque 'Aetheric Vehicle' and War Pigs-aping, Eno-esque, electro-hillbilly closer 'ESP'. And then there's the weird stuff.
The unified theme underpinning the whole album together this time is the series of parapsychological experiments conducted by the pair - test subjects were put into a state of sensory deprivation while Drew Daniel attempted to transmit 'the concept of the new Matmos record' to them, the verbal descriptions of what entered their minds becoming the poetic and conceptual source material for the pieces here. That the whole sprawling business holds together at all however is less due to this than to what makes Matmos different from their peers exploring similar areas: where much high-concept music smothered by it's own knowing smugness - Matmos are always fun.