Rose Has Teeth In The Mouth Of A Beast
May 9, 2006
The new album from Matmos finds the dynamic duo taking a holiday from conceptual responsibility, skipping the outré sampling antics in favor of a lighthearted "cosmic pop" record made entirely out of synthesizers. Leave it to Matmos to invent a hard and fast rule that they have to follow even when they're just having fun: the creative restriction this time around is that Supreme Balloon is an ALL synthesizer album and no microphones were used at any point.
That's right, no household objects played in a percussive manner, no snails or blood or amplified semen, no acoustic instruments, no voices of famous people for five seconds, not even any half-way cheating with Vocoders, just synthesizers of all shapes, sizes, eras and nationalities being snipped, folded and reshuffled by an arsenal of samplers and computers into colorful sound-origami.
Gear fetishists take note: the exotic and antiquated synths used on the record heavily spotlight the classic 60s/70s/80s consumer electronic rigs of Arp, Korg, Roland, Waldorf and Moog, and feature modular systems from Electro-Comp, Doepfer and Akai (hell, even a stylophone and a Suzuki Omnichord show up); these were recorded at home in San Francisco, California and in the SnowGhost studio at Whitefish, Montana. But there are also completely unique, one-of-a-kind modular curios present, such as the "Coupigny" modular synthesizer housed in the INA/GRM studios at Radio France in Paris and used extensively by some of the titans of musique-concrete.
Guest players invited to the party include living treasure of American jazz Marshall Allen of the Sun Ra Arkestra (he plays the E.V.I. or Electronic Voice Instrument, a breath controlled oscillator, on "Mister Mouth"), Bay Area troublemakers Jon Leidecker (aka Wobbly), East Coast electroacoustic sages Jay Lesser and Keith Fullerton Whitman, and classically trained pianist Sarah Cahill.
Though it was recorded all over the world over the last two years, the whole shebang was finished in Baltimore, Maryland (the band's new home, at least as long as Drew Daniel is a professor in the English Department at Johns Hopkins University), and comes encased in some truly gorgeous watercolor artwork by Robert Syrett.
To break it down: the album drops with a bumpin' front end of four rhythmic workouts (perky, stomping, toe-tapping, and shuffling, respectively) that coach Perrey & Kingsley and 8-bit video game music and kitsch Latin Moogsploitation into some freaky positions. Then things take a classy European vacation in which the baroque composer Francois Couperin's "Les Folies Francaises" is given the Wendy Carlos treatment. Then the band turn a corner into unexpected, ambitious new territory and things swell to a truly ridiculous/heroic climax.
The jewel in the crown is the album's title track, a 24 minute monster synth jam that builds from a lone Roland SH-101 wobbling your sub-woofers into a celestial, psychedelic epic whose spiraling arpeggios recall the sidelong LP-era mind-journeys of Cluster, Mother Mallard and Vangelis. Riding an insistent tabla pattern courtesy of a "Taal Mala" drum machine from India, warm, bubbling layers of analogue synthesis, and the chattering and chirping of MAX patches shaking hands with boutique EFX pedals, it's a long strange trip indeed. Things cool down with an ambient air kiss and it's over.
We know you're probably shaking your head and thinking to yourself, "an electronic band makes an all-electronic album? These guys must be CRAZY." And you'd be right. Consider this revenge for all those Queen records whose liner notes said "And nobody played the synthesizer!", and a sweet surprise from a truly unpredictable American band.
Matmos are Drew Daniel and M. C. Schmidt. www.brainashed.com.matmos www.matadorrecords.com/matmos
Rose Has Teeth In The Mouth Of A Beast
May 9, 2006
digital-age surrealists have birthed a musical hybrid
all their own” –Alternative Press
Rose Has Teeth In The Mouth Of A Beast is the new record
by San Francisco duo Matmos. It is a series of "sound
portraits" of a pantheon of people that they admire.
A musical attempt at biography, it’s loose in
some places and very literal in others; taken as a suite
of stylistically disparate songs, you get a kind of
fractured family album, a historical pageant. It's at
once Matmos’s most melodic and most conceptual
1. Roses and Teeth for Ludwig Wittgenstein (conceptual
2. Steam and Sequins for Larry Levan (mutant disco)
3. Tract for Valerie Solanas (booty bass)
4. Public Sex for Boyd McDonald (porn funk)
5. Semen Song for James Bidgood (weepy elegy)
6. Snails and Lasers for Patricia Highsmith (jazz noir)
7. Germs Burn for Darby Crash (power electronics)
8. Solo Buttons for Joe Meek (surf twang)
9. Rag for William S. Burroughs (Arabic ragtime psychedelia)
10. Banquet for King Ludwig II of Bavaria (Wagnerian
(full credits of each song available on request)
read their biographies and re-enacted events from their
lives, making songs out of the sounds of the re-enactments.
They gathered objects that were important to these people,
made noises with them, and built melodies out of the
noises. Sometimes the songs are just a tight focus on
one detail (the Wittgenstein song is just an exploded
view of a single paragraph from his text "Philosophical
Investigations") and sometimes they revisit one
event from their life (the King Ludwig II song re-enacts
the incident in which he ordered dinner to be served
to his favorite horse inside his castle's Hall of Mirrors
with disastrous results). Sometimes they depict their
subject abstractly: the Darby Crash song is dark electronics
made out of the sound of Drew Daniel crying out in pain
getting burned by the Germs’ Don Bolles, combined
with the noise of M.C. Schmidt shaving his head. The
Patricia Highsmith song was made as a collaboration
with her favorite animal, the snail (they aimed a laser
at a light sensitive theremin, and then got snails to
crawl across the path of the laser, triggering changes
in the theremin's pitch).
are more prominent on this record; there are guest vocals
and cameo speeches by Antony, Kalonica McQuesten, Laetitia
Sonami, Maja Ratjke, Bjork, and others.
The album features Matmos’s most extremist and
gutsy sound design (the sound of semen, burning flesh,
and the embalmed reproductive tract of a cow are all
featured) but rubbed up against the most lyrical, heart-on-sleeve
music they've ever written (check out Antony's voice
on "Semen Song for James Bidgood" or the Kronos
Quartet's funereal strings on "Solo Buttons for
Joe Meek"). French horns, tuba, strings, harp,
darbuka, voice, guitar, drums and synths are chopped
into tricky rhythmic patterns and melodic motifs. It's
a funkier, funnier affair than their last album, The
Civil War (a hallucinatory blend of medieval English
folk and 19th century Americana), but also a darker
Rose Has Teeth In The Mouth Of A Beast' is accompanied
by ten specially commissioned works of portraiture by
such visual artists as Dan Clowes, Jason Mecier, and
Michael Bernard Loggins, that depict the subjects of
is M.C. Schmidt and Drew Daniel. They make music out
of the sounds of objects, animals, people, and actions.
They have collaborated with Rachel's, So Percussion,
Jay Lesser, Alter Ego, People Like Us, Kronos Quartet
and Bjork. They have shared stages with Slint and Wolf
Eyes, remixed Foetus and Erase Errata (and many others),
taught seminars on sound art at Harvard University and
the San Francisco Art Institute, and DJed at proms for
homeless teenagers. They have had pieces in the Whitney
Museum of American Art and The Natural History Museum
of Los Angeles, did a 17-day live performance at the
Yerba Buena Museum of Contemporary Art in San Francisco,
and have scored the soundtracks for five gay porn films,
one pinball machine, and one NASCAR television commercial.
info, news, tour dates, and more available at Matmos’s
web site: http://brainwashed.com/matmos.
September 23, 2003
Civil War' is the new album by San Francisco electronic duo
Matmos. A hallucinatory double exposure of medieval English
folk and 19th century Americana, The Civil War finds Matmos
experimenting with a dramatically different palette from their
critically acclaimed exploration of medical technology 'A
Chance to Cut Is A Chance to Cure'. Though there's nary a
scalpel in sight, their humorous cut-up sensibility and willingness
to take risks remains intact. In a time when most electronic
artists seem desperate to ape the sounds of 1983 as closely
as possible, Matmos have tried to make the 2003 version of
the 1990 version of the 1968 version of the 1860 version of
the 1590s. Across the nine tracks on 'The Civil War', production
styles and instrumentation keep telescoping backwards and
projecting forwards, producing weirdly anachronistic dialogues:
medieval jigs and reels joust against country and western
twang, and pastoral acoustic folk gets pistolwhipped by crisp
digital editing techniques.
A guerilla assault on rock, folk, and country maneuvers, 'The
Civil War' keeps lines of communication open across genres
and periods. If the opener "Regicide"'s keening
hurdy gurdy recalls the Incredible String Band's psychedelic
medievalism,the ambling piano line of "For the Trees"
sounds like a distant cousin of honky tonk pianist Floyd Cramer's
swooning instrumentals. Songs mutate and reverse direction:
"Y.T.T.E" starts with tumbling big band drums that
recall Iggy Pop's "Lust for Life", gatecrashes a
Boredoms drumcircle, lilts into Chet Atkins twang, and finally
scuttles to a close in minimalist soundfile manipulation.
Deceptively "pretty" on the surface, it's music
that struggles against itself and occasionally collapses,
breaking down into amorphous skeins of noise, dissolving into
raw field recordings of cicadas in the trees and Fourth of
July fireworks, and, in "Pelt and Holler", unexpectedly
jump-cutting to total silence. While much of this album's
focus on untreated and close mic-ed acoustic instruments suggest
a pickin' session on a Southern porch, the mellowness is peppered
with peaks of scaldingly bright and extreme sonics. On this
recording M. C. Schmidt and guest member Keith Fullterton
Whitman (aka Hrvatski) had the opportunity to use one of the
original Serge modular synthesizers built by Ivan Tcherepnin;
its piercing squeals ricochet across the military drumrolls
As their compositional appetite grew more ambitious and expansive,
Matmos decided to bring in more musically gifted reinforcements
from across America. Among others, Steve Goodfriend and Jim
Putnam of Radar Bros. sit in on drums and guitar respectively,
Jay Lesser plucked the dobro, Tim Barnes offered drum source
samples, improv guitar manipulator Keenan Lawler ventured
into the sewer pipes of Louisville, Kentucky for a subterranean
steel guitar recording, fellow Louisville alumnus David Grubbs
contributed piano, with a little coaxing Blevin Blectum added
violin, and, providing the lion's share of guest contributions,
Mark Lightcap (formerly of Acetone, now playing with Hope
Sandoval) played tuba, peck horn, banjo, and heaps of electric
and acoustic guitar. That said, Matmos' trademark ear for
highly unorthodox sample sources endures: "Pelt and Holler"
is made almost entirely out of the sound of a rabbit pelt,
while "The Struggle Against Unreality Begins" features
the sound of the blood in M. C. Schmidt's carotid artery.
Balancing baroquely detailed production against passages of
stark single-instrument simplicity, Matmos have pushed themselves
in an unexpected, and surprisingly tuneful, new direction.
Part Canterbury tale and part Southern Gothic, 'The Civil
War' eludes easy categories but rewards careful listening,
responding to present tensions with historical imagination
and sly wit.
Matmos is M. C. Schmidt and Drew Daniel. They have toured
with Lesser, Labradford, The Rachels and Bjork, shared stages
with Terry Riley and Wire, remixed The Melvins and Otomo Yoshihide
(and most recently Erase Errata), and are still working on
an ongoing collaborative project with The Kronos Quartet.
They have taught seminars on sound art at Harvard University
and DJed at proms for homeless teenagers. They have had pieces
in the Whitney Museum of American Art, and have scored the
soundtracks for five gay porn films. They are currently on
tour with Bjork, and in November they are scheduled to present
their first installation at the Yerba Buena Museum of Contemporary
Art in San Francisco.
This is Matmos fifth studio album.
Complete discography at: http://brainwashed.com/matmos/discog/index.html
More fun at:
Chance to Cut Is a Chance to Cure
March 13, 2001
the critical success of their last full-length The West, San
Francisco-based electronic duo Matmos push their rhythmic
collage tendencies even further on their Matador debut, sidestepping
that records pastoral orientation in favor of an electro
cut-up concept album that samples recordings of plastic surgery
and medical technology.
After gaining the trust and cooperation of surgeons and patients,
the band was allowed to record in operating rooms and clinics.
Back in the studio, Matmos performed surgery of their own
upon the sounds they had gathered, building rhythms from the
clanks, rasps and snips of the scalpel, kick drums from the
sound of bones being broken, and rich drones from the buzz
of human skin conducting electricity through acupuncture points.
Matmos members M.C. Schmidt and Drew Daniel (both doctors
sons) felt that a dark record would be too easy
to make out of such Grand Guignol content. Instead, they make
surprisingly approachable, quasi-pop music by combining these
extremist sound sources with drums and guitars played by some
of the crew from The West (Steve Goodfriend of Radar Bros./For
Carnation, Mark Lightcap of Acetone). The result is challenging
sound art that you can tap your toes to.
Lipostudio (And So On...) pairs the shuffling,
squelching sound of human fat being sucked during liposuction
surgery with squalls of clarinet played by Stephen Thrower
(currently of Cyclobe, formerly of Coil), only to shift mid-song
into a stripped-down, melodic quasi-rock song that drifts
West-ward, complete with guest voices from a galaxy
of the US electronic scenes glitchiest (Kid 606, Lesser,
Blectum, Hrvatski). No puns about fat beats, please.
After a lengthy opening blast of electrical interference,
L.A.S.I.K. turns into click-happy electro scored
for the sounds of laser eye surgery, complete with encouragement
from the doctor and drugged murmurs from the patient, a willing
participant and friend of the band.
Turning an audiologist testing deaf children into an unlikely
house diva, Spondee makes directly for the dancefloor
(complete with horns, steady 4/4 kicks and a ConFunkShun-esque
handclap) only to ooze into lazy twang and end with sinus-scouring
full frequency sweeps and a murky lecture on the anatomy of
The tranquil melodic ambience of For Felix massages
you couchward, then swerves into jittery improv played entirely
upon the bowed and plucked bars of a rat cage, memorializing
the bands deceased pet while evoking the broader context of
laboratory animal research.
With its distorted fog of theremin-esque tone clouds and vaudeville
skiffle action, Memento Mori would be totally
scary funk even if it wasnt fashioned out of a human
The album closes with the epic California Rhinoplasty
in which a nose flute slinks across intricate layers of nose
job samples and warm tonal waves are generated by the electric
hum of muscle tissue being cauterized.
As a theme (did someone say concept album here?) medical
technology proves to be loose enough to include a wide
variety of sounds, while nonetheless tying together this unusual
suite of songs into a unified meditation on science, the body,
mortality and other dancefloor-friendly topics. A Chance to
Cut is A Chance to Cure shows the band at the height of their
powers, making ambitious and distinctly new music from an
Matmos has remixed Bjork, Kid 606, and Otomo Yoshihide, toured
with Lesser, Labradford and Rachels, and is currently working
with Bjork, Matthew Herbert and the Kronos Quartet on collaborative
a lot of lip service paid these days to various electronic-based
music being experimental but Matmos
musical practice genuinely deserves this much abused term.
Using samplers, analogue keyboards, field recordings and guitars,
Matmos make atmospheric, idiosyncratic electronica. In addition
to incorporating chance operations into their sequencing enviroment,
many songs are based upon a working methodology of conceptual
restriction songs are built entirely out of samples
from a single sound source: field recordings, contact microphones
on hair, even the sound of an amplified synapse from crayfish
nerve tissue. Sometimes these samples and recordings are built
up into elaborate rhythmic sequences verging on (but tweaking)
the by-now familiar subgenres of trip hop, drum and bass and
electro; sometimes these sound sources are kept beat-free,
and sculpted into frighteningly noisy atmospheres, or shot
through with eerie silent pauses and gaps.
Based in San Francisco, Matmos is Drew Daniel and M.C. Schmidt.
The band members biographies reflect their brainy, decentered
approach to electronica - daniel is currently getting his
PhD; Schmidt helps manage the conceptual art department of
the San Francisco Art Institute. Daniel is a veteran of the
indie rock scene in Louisville, Kentucky, and has collaborated
on film soundtracks and, oddly enough, hip hop projects with
Jeff Mueller (of June of 44) and Jason Noble (Rachels).
In addition to radio DJing, drew has DJed in jungle and trip
hop clubs in england and San Francisco and has been making
experimental electronic music since high school. M.C. Schmidt
has been making experimental electronic music for many years,
as the leader of avant-garde drone outfit X/I and industrial
occultists Iaocore, in which he did time with current members
of Amber Asylum and Tipsy.