Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The In


The world is filled with instrumental alt-rock acts, most of
whom fall into distinct categories. Mogwai and Explosions
in the Sky have that cinematic thing down to a science (hence
their inclusion in numerous movies and television shows).
Groups like Pelican and Belong trod a more metallic path.
Then there's the textural Tortoise and their various off-shoots.

Matmos, an electronic duo formed in San Francisco and
based in Baltimore, sounds nothing like any of these outfits.
That's because they have little interest in traditional instrum-
entation, and their eighth album builds on their reputation
for evolution and experimentation—it's no wonder they've
collaborated with the endlessly iconoclastic Björk.

As an example of their ingeniousness, on 2001's A Chance
to Cut Is a Chance to Cure, they incorporate the sounds
of liposuction and on 2006's The Rose Has Teeth in the
Mouth of a Beast, they turn to a cow's reproductive tract.

This all-synthesizer, no-contact mic release brings back
the halcyon days of Perrey-Kingsley (best known for "Flight
of the Bumblebee"), Wendy Carlos (the composer behind the
futuristic score for A Clockwork Orange), and other synth
stylists. Parallels abound with a few retro-minded modern-
day artists, too, like Stereolab and Cornelius (sans the vocals).

According to the press
notes, this seven-song
set employs "the classic
'60s/'70s/'80s consum-
er electronic rigs of Arp,
Korg, Roland, Waldorf,
and Moog, and modular
systems from Electro-
Comp, Doepfer, and Akai."

Martin C. Schmidt and Drew Daniel, an English professor at
Johns Hopkins, also call on outside instrumental experts, like
Jon Leidecker, Jay Lesser, Keith Fullerton Whitman, Sarah Ca-
hill, and Marshall Allen of the Sun Ra Arkestra, who plays the
Electronic Voice Instrument (EVI) on "Mister Mouth."

Except for the 24-minute title track, none of the selections top
four minutes, but no one would confuse them for pop singles.
Standouts include the ever-changing "Supreme Balloon" and
Couperin's "Les Folies Françaises," which recalls the score for
Barry Lyndon. (Let's face it: Kubrick's films are one of the least ac-
knowledged influences on modern music.) In addition, legendary
minimalist Terry Riley appears on one of three bonus LP tracks.

Endnote: Matmos plays Seattle's Triple Door on Mon., 7/7.
For more information, please click here. Post title courtesy
Perrey-Kingsley's 1966 LP The In Sound from Way Out!;
swiped by the Beastie Boys for their instrumental CD of
'96. Images from Sound on Sound and NewMusicBox.

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