One of the best things about this experimental duo (among many): you can never predict what they'll do next. It would be a fool's game to even try, since every release revolves around a different concept, most of them pretty esoteric.
To muddy the waters further, Drew Daniel and M.C. Schmidt often combine complementary or purposefully contradictory concepts in order to arrive at a deeper truth, and yet the results never sound as dry as that description suggests.
Their last full-length, 2008's Supreme Balloon, an all-synthesizer release—Moog, Arp 2600, Korg MS20, Stylophone, etc.—registers as their most accessible effort to date, and featured a number of special guests, notably minimalist composer Terry Riley on a bonus track and Marshall Allen of the Sun Ra Arkestra on the EVI (Electronic Valve Instrument).
The gentlemen also put on a great live show, to judge by their 2008 appearance at the Triple Door (I've also caught a few of Daniel's EMP presentations, including his paper on the Germs). As brainy guys go, they're refreshingly down-to-earth.
There's no point in trying to describe their upcoming EP and record in my own words, since I'll probably mangle what they're attempting to accomplish, so check out the press release below, plus the first track, "Very Large Green Triangles."
"The Ganzfeld EP" precedes Matmos' full-length, The Marriage of True Minds. The timing is apt—as Thrill Jockey celebrates 20 years as a label, band members Schmidt and Daniel celebrate their own 20-year anniversary as musical and romantic partners this fall.
The EP and album have the same conceptual basis: telepathy. For the past four years the band have been conducting parapsychological experiments based upon the classic Ganzfeld ("total field") experiment, but with a twist: instead of sending and receiving simple graphic patterns, test subjects were put into a state of sensory deprivation by covering their eyes and listening to white noise on headphones, and then Daniel attempted to transmit "the concept of the new Matmos record" directly into their minds. During videotaped psychic experiments conducted at home in Baltimore and at Oxford University, test subjects were asked to describe out loud anything they saw or heard within their minds as Drew attempted transmission. The resulting transcripts became a kind of score that was then used by Matmos to generate music. If a subject hummed something, that became a melody; passing visual images suggested arrangement ideas, instruments, or raw materials for a collage; if a subject described an action, then the band members had to act that out and make music out of the noises generated in the process of the re-enactment.
"Triangles (Edit)" begins with a tiny sung riff which the test subject Ed Schrader seemed to hear in his mind during his psychic session. This riff is paired with a classic Baltimore club beat and orchestral and choral stabs faintly reminiscent of Jerry Goldsmith's soundtrack music for The Omen. The result is a kind of urban gothic anthem to a primordial geometric image generated during a psychic experiment. Ed was asked to re-sing words and phrases from his psychic transcript, and these vocal snippets are chopped and stacked over a frantic vogue-ball kick drum pattern.
I have no problem admitting I have a crush on both of these guys. Thrill Jockey releases "The Ganzfeld EP" on Oct 16 and The Marriage of True Minds in 2013.