The long-running digital duo Matmos have simply launched a stunning new LP, Regards / Ukłony dla Bogusław Schaeffer. Whereas their earlier album, 2020’s The Consuming Flame: Open Exercises in Group Form, noticed the couple collaging contributions from 99 mates recorded at 99 bpm, their newest is devoted to the work of only one individual: Polish polymath Bogusław Schaeffer (1929-2019). In this episode, we focus on how their fame for conceptualism has typically served to obscure the formal traits of their work. Can an object be an idea? Is “washer” or “plastic” an idea? With their signature mix of great humor, the pair mirror on touring with a washer, the practicalities of licensing music, and the complexities of working with Schaeffer’s archive.
Episode 25: IRREGARDS
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Interview recorded between Baltimore and Montreal, April 2022
Produced and combined in New York, May 2022
SP* at Anchor
Matmos is M.C. (Martin) Schmidt and Drew Daniel. Founded within the San Francisco Bay Area in 1993, the duo have earned a fame for an virtually fanatical dedication to their conceptual method to music. While the group have continued to evolve and push their music in new instructions, there’s nonetheless a Matmos sound recognizable throughout their prolonged discography: tight modifying, glitchy rhythms, and a attribute humorousness so typically lacking in digital music (and music usually, if we’re sincere). They’re additionally a pleasure to interview, as evidenced by the sheer quantity of laughter on this episode.
Like many others, I first heard Matmos by way of their work on Björk’s Vespertine (2001), although I didn’t comprehend it on the time. Following a remix for the Icelandic popstar in 1998, the duo contributed manufacturing on that album and Medúlla (2004), becoming a member of her touring band. (They’re seen with their backs to the viewers throughout this 2001 Tonight Show efficiency; observe Martin caressing Drew with a contact microphone.) These collaborations with Björk are indicative of Matmos’ expertise at fusing pop and avant-garde sensibilities, a mélange continually renewed with every new undertaking.
In a 2017 dialog between Matmos and Alvin Curran printed by RBMA, the duo every share sonic recollections from childhood that present highly effective encapsulations of their aesthetic. Martin remembers that “each Sunday morning I might get up to the sound of jet planes touchdown, a round noticed, an opera turned up loud sufficient to listen to over the round noticed.” Drew grew up subsequent to a funeral residence, and “on the opposite aspect of the funeral residence had been prepare tracks. I feel I share that sense that listening to the musicality and motion by way of area of sound was only a given earlier than I knew something in regards to the origin story of musique concrete itself.” While the historical past of avant-garde music would later present some type of authorization for their very own actions, Matmos is pushed extra by follow than idea.
The band has been primarily based in Baltimore, the place Daniel is an English professor, since 2007. And whereas there’s a sure intellectualism and conceptual rigor to their work, there’s nothing “educational” about their music. Like a gayer Nurse With Wound filtered by way of an eccentric dance flooring sensibility, Matmos’ music is irregularly metered, intelligent, and sometimes playfully morbid (see 2001’s A Chance to Cut is a Chance to Cure, comprised of the sounds of assorted surgical procedures.) Subsequent albums have typically pursued comparable methods of a restricted sound supply grounded in a transparent idea. For occasion, The Rose Has Teeth within the Mouth of a Beast (2006) profiled the lives of assorted queer historic figures, whereas Supreme Balloon (2008) traded samples for classic synthesizer explorations.
Both a band and a pair, Matmos is a uniquely collaborative undertaking. (In a latest function on Bandcamp, Daniel concedes that “Our relationship and the band are form of the identical factor.”) Still, all through their profession the band have typically introduced in extra collaborators. All the fabric on Work, Work, Work (2006) was culled from a 97-hour stay efficiency at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center, for which they enlisted the assistance of mates together with Wobbly, Sutekh (Rrose), Michael Brown, and Safety Scissors, lots of whom have remained collaborators within the years since. Treasure State (2010) noticed Matmos paired with Sō Percussion, everyone’s favourite new music percussion quartet. The Consuming Flame (2020) took their penchant for collaboration to a considerably insane degree (simply have a look at this group chart!), inviting 99 mates to ship them quick compositions, the one rule being a gentle beat of 99 bpm.
2013’s The Marriage of True Minds (the title is a reference to Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116) was their first studio album following their cross nation transfer, and took 4 years to finish. They enlisted many collaborators for this undertaking as effectively, who had been put right into a state of sensory deprivation and requested to reply to varied prompts primarily based on the Ganzfeld experiment, utilized by parapsychologists to check for extrasensory notion (ESP). In our interview, Martin explains that such a prolonged manufacturing cycle started to appear overly self-indulgent, and the tempo of their studio albums has picked up within the years since.
Ultimate Care II (2016) was recorded utilizing nothing however the sound of their washer of the identical identify, which accompanied Matmos throughout their tour of Europe and North America. A extra vegan pleasant model of Matthew Herbert and his pig, every evening the band would solicit an article of clothes from an viewers member which they might wash throughout their set. (Michael Brown rigged up the water pump that made touring with a washer a chance.) Made on the event of the couple’s twenty fifth anniversary, Plastic Anniversary (2019) continued their exploration of a restricted sound supply, sampling solely the sound of assorted plastic objects. (We beloved the video explainers they made for that report!)
But are these fanatical sonic explorations of objects “ideas”? Perhaps they’re higher understood merely as strategies of framing every undertaking, offering vital constraints to rein within the in any other case limitless potential afforded by trendy music making. Martin suggests the latter, admitting that there’s one thing “silly” about making a washer album, and expressing hope that such a foolish idea would encourage listeners to as a substitute pay attention extra fastidiously to the music. Perhaps it’s ironic, then, that probably the most success they’ve had at distancing themselves from their conceptual fame is when their music is taken fully out of context; licensed for NASCAR commercials or episodes of Top Gear.
After the laborious technique of composing the three hour-long suites of Consuming Flame, for his or her subsequent album the duo paired right down to only one collaborator: Bogusław Schaeffer. Born within the metropolis of Lwów (now Lviv, Ukraine), like many artists and musicians who labored behind the so-called Iron Curtain, Schaeffer’s music is little recognized exterior his native nation. Michal Mendyk of the Instytutu Adama Mickiewicza in Warsaw (a corporation devoted to the promotion of Polish tradition, roughly equal to Germany’s Goethe Institute or Spain’s Cervantes Institute) approached the group, suspecting they might be an excellent match for a undertaking giving them open entry to the archive of the late Polish composer. But in contrast to The Rose Has Teeth, with Regards / Ukłony Matmos don’t attempt to characterize the lifetime of the composer, as a substitute mining his wealthy and sophisticated music for moments that will make evocative samples.
The course of started with the meeting of a pattern package of Schaeffer’s sounds for Ableton Live. I had some enjoyable enjoying round with the package myself, and included a few of my noodling loops on this episode. I discovered the choral samples notably stunning. I additionally loved the window into Daniel’s thoughts, seeing how the package was laid out, and the classes he devised for grouping them, reminiscent of Noise, Bonk, Texture, Events, and many others.
Schaeffer was a member of the avant-garde “Cracow Group,” however in contrast to his fellow Krzysztof Penderecki, his work stays largely unknown exterior of Poland. As Martin explains on this episode, when Schaeffer is thought it’s typically for his utilization of fantastically designed graphic scores. The pair determined towards working with Schaeffer’s graphic scores early on within the manufacturing of Regards / Ukłony, as a substitute producing stunning new varieties from the fabric. (Those scores are referenced in Robert Beatty’s evocative cowl artwork, and will be explored by way of the Non-Stop app.) Matmos then proceeded to compose a whole album drawing on sampled materials, and the result’s maybe the strangest installment of their many years lengthy profession.
Regards / Ukłony dla Bogusław Schaeffer is neither ‘Matmos performs Boguslaw Schaeffer,’ nor a group of remixes, however takes the group additional afield nonetheless. A set of eight new songs bridging the utopian Sixties Polish avant-garde with our modern dystopia, and plenty of kinds in between. The album just isn’t a lot timeless as premature. It doesn’t sound like a misplaced work from the Sixties, however it resists simple categorization. The first 4 tracks manifest the rhythmic sensibilities we affiliate with Matmos, whereas the second half takes an surprising flip, extra rooted in textural nuance.
Many of the tune titles are anagrams of Schaeffer’s identify, paralleling Matmos’ formal method to the music. They additionally enlisted extra assist from just a few mates, together with Irish harpist Úna Monaghan, Turkish multi-instrumentalist Ulas Kurugullu, and digital processes from Baltimore instrument builder Will Schorre and Horse Lord’s Max Eilbacher. That stated, it’s not apparent the place the samples of Schaeffer’s music finish and their contributions start. Despite their penchant for transparency, Matmos proceed to maintain us guessing.
ARTIST – “TITLE” (ALBUM, LABEL, YEAR)
Matmos – “Anti-Antiphon(Absolute Decomposition) / Anty-Antyfona (Dekonstrukcja_na_całego)” [excerpt] (Regards / Ukłony dla Bogusław Schaeffer, Thrill Jockey, 2022)
Matmos intro collage + Barbarella Matmos clip (1968)
Matmos – “Anti-Antiphon (Absolute Decomposition) / Anty-Antyfona (Dekonstrukcja na całego)” [excerpt] (Regards / Ukłony dla Bogusław Schaeffer, Thrill Jockey, 2022)
Matmos – “A DOUGHNUT IN THE SKY” (The Consuming Flame: Open Exercises in Group Form, Thrill Jockey, 2020)
Matmos – “Flight to Sodom / Lot do Salo” (Regards / Ukłony dla Bogusław Schaeffer, Thrill Jockey, 2022)
Song that my Whirlpool stackable washer performs (2022)
Matmos – [opening excerpt] (Ultimate Care II, Thrill Jockey, 2016)
Matmos – “Always Three Words” (quasi-objects, obscure terrain, 1998)
Matmos – “Memento Mori” (A Chance to Cut Is a Chance to Cure, Matador, 2001)
Matmos clip from Top Gear: Series 5, Episode 9, Ariel Atom 46:09 – 46:40 (2004)
Matmos – “Plastic Minor” (Matmos, Vague Terrain, 1997)
Matmos – “You (Rrose Mix)” (The Ganzfeld EP, Thrill Jockey, 2012)
Matmos – “Cobra Wages Shuffle / Off! Schable w gurę!” (Regards / Ukłony dla Bogusław Schaeffer, Thrill Jockey, 2022)
Matmos – “In Search Of A Lost Faculty” (The Marriage Of True Minds, Thrill Jockey, 2013)
Joseph Sannicandro – Improv with Matmos’ Bogusław Schaeffer Ableton pattern package (2022)
Bogusław Schaeffer – “Berlin 80 II” (Inventionen: Berlin 80 II / Fabulas II / Inventio, Edition RZ, 1985)
Matmos – [late excerpt] (Ultimate Care II, Thrill Jockey, 2016)
Matthew Herbert – “August 2010” (ONE PIG, Accidental, 2011)
Matmos – “Extending The Plastisphere To GJ237b (Plastic Anniversary, Thrill Jockey, 2019)
Jennifer Veillerobe – “B3” (Luftlöcher, Senufo, 2013)
Run The Jewels – “Creown (Alchemist Remix)” (Meow The Jewels, Mass Appeal, 2015)
Terry Fox – “The Labyrinth Scored for the Purrs of 11 Different Cats” [excerpt] (Tellus #21 – Anthology Of Audio By Visual Artists, Tellus, 1988)
Alvin Curran – [Side A, opening excerpt] (Fiori Chiari, Fiori Oscuri, Ananda, 1978)
Count Dooku clips from Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005)
Matmos – “Part VII. The Backyard” (ROBERT ASHLEY’s Perfect Lives: Baltimore, 3/28/17)
Pierluigi Billone – “excerpt” (1 + 1 = 1, Kairos, 2006)
Ivan Catteneo – “Kiss me I’m italian” (Urlo, CGD, 1980)
Matmos – “The Little People have been there and finished your work fingers gentle and chilly as spring wind by way of the rooms (Matmos and Michael Brown)” (Work Work Work, Vague Terrain, 2006)
M.C. Schmidt – “Lowland Side” (Batu Malablab, Megaphone / Knock’em Dead, 2015)
The Soft Pink Truth – “Space Formerly Occupied by An Amebix Cover But Fuck That Guy for Being a Holocaust Denier” (Am I Free To Go?, self-released, 2020)
Joseph Sannicandro – Improv with Matmos’ Bogusław Schaeffer Ableton pattern package (2022)
Sound Propositions is written, recorded, combined, and produced by Joseph Sannicandro.