Drew Daniel and Martin “M.C.” Schmidt began working together as Matmos in the mid-’90s, when the IDM (that’s “Intelligent Dance Music,” for all you non-geeks) movement was in full swing and lots of nerdy dudes with computers and synths were pushing electronic music into some interesting and arty new directions. In that crowded field, Matmos didn’t immediately stand out; then they released an album in 2001 called A Chance to Cut Is a Chance to Cure and it became clear that this wasn’t just another couple of Autechre wannabes.
If you want to get all highbrow about it, A Chance to Cut is a musique concrete album: Its sounds were created almost entirely by sampling the audio associated with various surgical procedures, everything from the slurps and squelches of liposuction to the percussive taps and scrapes against a brain surgery patient’s skull. Somehow, though, Daniel and Schmidt convert this raw material into music that’s playful, melodic and almost jaunty. Around the same time, the duo was also invited by Björk to work on her Verspertine album and subsequent world tour, which raised their profile significantly.
After that experience, Matmos did what any newly semi-famous electronic act would do: They released a concept album called The Civil War that mainly used banjos, strings, fife and drum, and various other old-timey instruments for a series of songs based on both the American Civil War and the English Civil War of the 16th century. It was all run through the same Matmos blender of digital loops, processors and effects, but the result sounded far more like a chopped ‘n’ screwed Ken Burns soundtrack than what you’d expect from two proven masters of cutting-edge electronica.
Since then, Daniel and Schmidt have returned to more “standard” electronic fare, releasing two more albums—2006’s The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of a Beast and 2008’s Supreme Balloon—that rely almost entirely on vintage synthesizers (and no microphones, as proudly stated in Supreme Balloon‘s liner notes). But they remain, for our money, one of the weirdest electronic music acts in the business. You never really know what these guys have in store for us next.
Here’s the video for “Lipostudio…And So On,” the track from A Chance to Cut that uses sound samples from liposuction. We’re not too crazy about the video, but it gives you a chance to hear what a disturbingly queasy effect Matmos achieves with all squishing and slurping.
- Matmos official site on Brainwashed.com
- Matmos on MySpace
- Matmos on Matador Records
- The Soft Pink Truth on Brainwashed.com (Drew Daniel solo project)