Matmos flush out the ‘jams’ with London residency
Experimental electro duo challenge and tease with their own brand of high jinks musique concrète.
We meet in a New York public toilet cubicle, head straight down the pan with a slide into the scatological underworld of urban sewage. A few splashes, a harmonium synth and a crescendo of angelic harps as we unexpectedly stumble on a glut of the most precious of metals.
“Sh*t into gold,” summarises Martin C. Schmidt of the set opener and its accompanying video. One half of avant-garde electro outfit Matmos, Schmidt, and partner Drew Daniel, are in London for a two day “residency” at trendy Dalston venue Cafe OTO.
Making gold from the repugnant is something of a speciality for this duo, having once released an album made entirely from the sounds of surgical procedures (A Chance to Cut is a Chance to Cure) including voyeuristic insights into liposuction and rhinoplasty.
Always challenging; while last night’s performance was dedicated to structure, tonight they tell us is all about “a void where structure may occur, A.K.A jamming”.
How much ‘jamming’ is possible on a sea of laptops is debatable, but then maybe that’s the joke. Matmos’ raison d'etre is a very strange and very beautiful brand of musique concrète that’s long set firm outside of mainstream song structure.
Matmos’ latest album, The Marriage of True Minds, is built around experiments in telepathy, though that unfortunately doesn’t extend to transmission of song titles to the uninitiated.
What we do get however is as much a visual treat as an audio one, with glitchy beats and wurlitzer backed by a film of the mundanity of washing dishes on one composition, or the sight of Schmidt cracking nuts on to his keyboard during another.
The sounds are experimental, original but always tuneful, and while the concepts behind them may be weighty, there is never a sense that this pair take themselves too seriously. Take, the finale, which sees Schmidt pass through delicate phrases on a grand piano - another piano being ‘adapted’ behind him on screen - before answering his mobile mid-song,
“I wonder what that means?” he asks on hanging up, knowing full well the audience will be asking the exactly same question of tonight long after he’s left the stage.