Weird Live Review: Matmos

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“We’ve played some serious shitholes on this tour,” Matmos‘ M.C. Schmidt said Monday night. “But this is not one of them.”

The man did not fib. The Masonic Lodge at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery is a gorgeous space with high vaulted ceilings, great acoustics and extremely uncomfortable chairs. Chairs aside, it was the perfect space in which to soak up the many bizarre sounds put forth by M.C. Schmidt and his partner, Drew Daniel, who were there to perform tracks from their latest album, The Marriage of True Minds, as well as a few old favorites.

Matmos put on a much more entertaining show than you might reasonably expect from two dudes hunched over a couple of folding tables festooned with cables, laptops and vintage synths. Aided by members of their opening band, Horse Lords, on guitar, drums and woodwinds, they cranked out a pretty diverse and dense wall of sounds, including some made by objects one doesn’t normally see at a concert, much less one being held at a cemetery. But more on that in a sec.

Horse Lords—like Matmos, a Baltimore band—set the tone with some highly percussive post-rock that was punctuated Andrew Bernstein’s gloriously noisy, looped saxophone riffs. They weren’t quite as unhinged as Baltimore’s last great noise merchants, the late lamented Ponytail, but you can see where they have the potential to seriously fuck up some shit. No surprise Matmos invited them to serve as both opening act and touring band.

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When Matmos took the stage, they were a study in contrasts: M.C. Schmidt looked like a tweedy liberal arts professor, while Drew Daniel was decked out in full punk/industrial/leather daddy regalia, wearing a studded leather Merzbow jacket that probably had several Japanoise fans in the audience wiping drool off their chins.

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They began the set with “Very Large Green Triangles,” the lead single (if Matmos has singles) off The Marriage of True Minds. In case you haven’t been keeping up with our many Matmos posts, True Minds is the duo’s possibly serious, possibly tongue-in-cheek attempt to create an entire album using extra-sensory perception: They stuck test subjects in an isolation chamber, then tried to transmit the album to them telepathically. Then they recorded the subjects’ descriptions of what they were seeing and hearing in their isolation-chamber mind-movies and built songs around samples of those descriptions. So “Very Large Green Triangles” is based on a test subject talking about, well, seeing very large triangles. With me so far?

To evoke their mind experiments in a live setting, they had Horse Lords guitarist Owen Gardner narrate “Green Triangles” while wearing opaque glasses and giant headphones. I think we got the extended-due-to-technical-difficulties version of the track, because M.C. Schmidt kept fidgeting with the onstage sound board and making “What the fuck?” faces for about five minutes before his keyboard would emit any sound. Sucked for him, I’m sure, but it actually turned the song into an even cooler, more epic jam than it is on record.

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Credit: Philip Evans

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They followed that up, fittingly, with their cover of the Buzzcocks’ “E.S.P.”, in which Drew Daniel did a nice job channeling his Merzbow jacket into a throat-shredding lead vocal. Side note: Turns out it’s very hard to head-bang while wearing glasses. Drew kept having to hold his hand over his Warby Parkers to keep them from flying off into the audience, where they no doubt would have been used to barter him out of his Merzbow jacket.

Drew Daniel of Matmos
Credit: Philip Evans

I thought they might play more stuff from True Minds, but instead, they went right into “Lipostudio” from their surgery-sampling 2001 album, A Chance to Cut Is a Chance to Cure. To recreate the liposuction sounds from the studio track (“recorded right here in Los Angeles!” M.C. cheerfully noted), M.C. Schmidt blew what appeared to be a duck call and a small flute into a bowl of water. The effect was both cooler and grosser-sounding than you might expect.

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Credit: Philip Evans

Next came the balloons. Oh, the balloons. I’m not sure what album this track was taken from, but it was hilarious and totally magical. If there is such a thing as a balloon maestro, then M.C. Schmidt is surely one.

Matmos M.C. Schmidt plays the balloon

Did I mention the visuals? Ah, the visuals. These guys know how to keep an electronic music show interesting. Then again, they’ve played with Björk, so you’d expect nothing less.

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Matmos finished their set with a song from their 19th-century-folk-inspired album, The Civil War, which was a jaunty way to finish the show. There was whistling and something that I think was an autoharp. Until you hear them string together songs from throughout their six-odd-album career, it’s easy to forgot how insanely diverse Matmos’ catalog is. It could all easily be the work of four or five completely different groups.

Drew and M.C. wrapped things up with one of those encore-but-not-really moments when the band makes like they’re going to leave the stage, but then just mills around for a few minutes before someone finally grabs a mic and asks the usually rhetorical question, “Do you guys wanna hear one more?” (Just to be clear: I love when bands do this. Fuck the encore, stay up there and keep playing, dammit!) In response to Drew’s query, “Lounge or disco?”, the crowd wisely and lustily replied, “Disco!” So we got treated to a little Matmos-style thumpy-thumpy before having to walk back through the cemetery to our cars, which was a nice way to end a memorable evening. It would’ve been more memorable if we could’ve actually danced instead of just rocking back and forth in those uncomfortable chairs, but let’s not get greedy.

P.S. Many thanks to our buddy Phil for supplying the additional photos. And to Gary for the extra ticket. And to everyone who helped score me a seat in the second row. I am telepathically transmitting warm fuzzy feelings to you all.

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VirginTurtleWhore

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Once again you, the people, have crowned a new Weird Band of the Week. That’s how people get crowned, right? By popular vote? It’s what we do here in America at homecoming dances, anyway.

The point is, we posted another Facebook poll, and this band from Mexico called VirginTurtleWhore totally crushed the competition. So how do you say “Congrats” in Spanish? “Congracias”? That doesn’t sound right. I really should have paid closer attention in Spanish class, but I was listening to bands like VirginTurtleWhore.

We actually don’t know all that much about VTW. We know they’re from Puerto Vallarta and seem to have been around since 2005 or so.  They describe themselves as experimental death metal. They cite Fantomas as one of their influences, which we’re totally down with. They were once a four-piece but there seem to be five of them now: NioX (vocals), PaSkKal (drums), Doña C’anobhia (bass), The Unk and Pack Man (guitars). There may be a sixth member named Teghsie but there’s just a bunch of question marks next to his or her name on the VirginTurtleWhore Facebook page so we’re not sure if that really counts.

Live, they seem to usually cover their faces, but not always their asses. Or their pendejos. (That means both “dumbass” and “pubic hair” in Spanish, or so we’re told. If UrbanDictionary.com had existed when I took Spanish, I might have actually passed.)

It looks like they released an album in 2009 called Evoluphilia that kinda sounds like a cross between Fantomas, Iwrestledabearonce and maybe something like Enter Shikari, because they throw in the occasional electronic dance elements before getting to the 200 bpm, face-melting shit. You can hear some of that stuff here and here. It’s definitely not for pussies.

More recently, they seem to be working on a new album just called Evolution. They’ve released one track from it called “Exxxistencia” that has a kind of amazing video, which you can watch below. Stay with it until you see the headbanging cows. It gets really good after that, trust me. It’s like Discovery Channel After Dark.

So congrats again, VTW! And stay tuned for our next Weird Band Poll. They just keep getting crazier.

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New Tiger Lillies album “Either Or” is out now

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So it appears that while we were mucking about with Facebook polls and Valentine’s Day playlists, the Tiger Lillies released their new album. It’s called Either Or and it’s available now in good old-fashioned CD form on the band’s website. You can preview snippets of all 16 tracks on Last.fm, but it appears the only way to hear the whole thing is to buy it. What a novel concept!

The Lillies describe it as one of their weirdest-sounding albums, and based on what we’ve heard so far, we can’t argue. It’s loosely based on the writings of philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, specifically a portion of his 1834 work Either/Or called “The Seducer’s Diary,” which sets forth the notion that pleasure-seeking is the noblest pursuit and “all evil deeds are justified as long as they give meaning to people’s existence.” (Jake will be thrilled to hear this, since it’s pretty much how he’s lived his whole life anyway.) On many of the songs, Martyn Jacques seems to be using less of his trademark falsetto, and guest multi-instrumentalist David Coulter provides some new sounds and textures by playing everything from banjo, ukulele and violin to nose flute, jew’s saw, weeping saws, maracas, omnichord and clackamore. (We’d never heard of that last one, either; apparently it’s a kind of jew’s harp.) The album is also the first to feature new drummer Mike Pickering.

In support of Either Or, the Tiger Lillies have put together something new and different (would you expect anything less?): the “Either/Or Cabaret,” set in 1937 Shanghai, which was nicknamed “Sin City” because of its decadent nightclubs. The cabaret features not just the Lillies themselves but 10 Danish and Chinese actors playing various chanteuses, dancers and nightclub patrons. Unfortunately, as of now, the only place you can see the show is in, well, Shanghai—where it’s running now through March 3rd at the Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre. After that, the Lillies have a few upcoming performances in France, Britain, Germany and Istanbul, which you can learn more about here. No further dates for the Either/Or Cabaret have been announced, but something tells us we haven’t seen the last of it.

Till then, we’ll tide you over with this Either/Or Cabaret promo video. Looks pretty decadent, all right.

Captured! By Robots announces the C!BR Is Trippin’ Balls tour

Captured! By Robots Trippin' Balls tour poster

Can robots trip balls? We’re about to find out. Captured! By the Robots, the world’s greatest Journey-covering nearly-all-robot band, is heading out on tour this April and May, and they’re promising a mind and/or CPU-expanding show the likes of which we sad little meat puppets have never seen. There will be baby eating. There will be dildo trombones. There may or may not be some unicorn riding. Or maybe there will baby riding and unicorn eating. You don’t know, and neither do we. All we can do is tell you the dates.

4/17/2013     Slabtown     Portland
4/18/2013     Chop Suey     Seattle
4/19/2013     The Palace     Missoula
4/20/2013     The Shredder     Boise
4/21/2013     Urban Lounge     Salt Lake City
4/24/2013     3 Kings Tavern     Denver
4/26/2013     The Brick     Kansas City
4/27/2013     Triple Rock      Minneapolis
4/28/2013     The Aquarium     Fargo
5/1/2013     JD’s Bar     Green Bay
5/2/2013     The Frequency     Madison
5/3/2013     Cactus Club     Milwaukee
5/4/2013     Martyrs     Chicago
5/5/2013     House Cafe     Dekalb
5/7/2013     TBA         Marshall
5/8/2013     Mac s Bar     Lansing
5/9/2013     Blind Pig     Ann Arbor
5/10/2013     Grog Shop     Cleveland Heights
5/11/2013     The Note     West Chester
5/12/2013     Chameleon Club     Lancaster
5/15/2013     The Hideaway     Johnson City
5/16/2013     Milestone Club     Charlotte
5/17/2013     The Jinx     Savannah
5/18/2013     The Earl     Atlanta
5/22/2013     Artmosphere     Lafayette
5/23/2013     TBA         Austin
5/24/2013     Double Wide     Dallas
5/25/2013     Rubber Gloves     Denton
5/28/2013     LAUNCH PAD     Albuquerque
5/30/2013     Rhythm Room     Phoenix
5/31/2013     TBA         San Diego
6/1/2013     TBA         Los Angeles

I’ll repeat here what I already told C!BR on their Facebook page: When you gearheads come to L.A. (and you better, godammit), you should play The Smell. That place is awesome. Bring a few robot floor fans, though. Otherwise you’ll probably blow a gasket when the temperature hits 120 and the walls start sweating.

We’ll leave you with a behind-the-scenes video of C!BR drummer DRMBOT0110 stress testing his double kick-drum. If you’re a drummer in a death metal band, you might wanna start looking for other work.

Professor Elemental vs. Mr. B the Gentleman Rhymer

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It’s yet another first here at Weird Band HQ: This week, two artists will share the title of Weird Band of the Week. It seems only fitting, since Mr. B the Gentleman Rhymer and Professor Elemental were finally able to quash their long-running feud and agree to share the top of the chap-hop heap.

Let’s back up a bit. “Chap-hop” is a term that, as far as we can tell, was originally coined by Mr. B (real name: Jim Burke), a London rapper who adopted the trappings of the British “Chappist” movement, a subculture devoted to the more genteel ways of Downton Abbey-era England, complete with lots of tweed, liberal use of the word “jolly” and well-manicured facial hair. By combining dandyish style (and an adorably retro instrument called the banjolele) with the rhymes, beats and cocksure attitude of hip-hop, Mr. B created a whole new subgenre of music. Or did he?

This is where it gets interesting. Because you see, before Mr. B ever dropped a rhyme about his watch fob, another chap in nearby Brighton by the name of Professor Elemental (real name: Paul Alborough) was mixing rap with Edwardian swag on songs like “Cup of Brown Joy,” an ode to tea drinking whose loopy, low-budget video has racked up 1.5 million views on YouTube, making it a chap-hop anthem on par with, say, “Gin & Juice.”

Although Professor Elemental initially identified himself as a “steampunk mad scientist” (you can tell he’s steampunk because he sometimes wears goggles on his pith helmet) rather than a practitioner of chap-hop, it wasn’t long before he discovered the existence of Mr. B the Gentleman Rhymer and began drawing battle lines. “I can’t walk down the street these days without being mistaken for Mr. B, or without folk asking if I am going to battle the cad,” he said in an interview with The Chap, the scene’s magazine of record. In 2010, two years after both chap rappers first rose to prominence, he released a song and video called “Fighting Trousers” that called out Mr. B in no uncertain terms.

Mr. B eventually responded with his own shot across the bow, a capital little brag track called “Just Like a Chap.” But by this point, the battle was all in good fun, as you’ll see towards the end when Professor E himself makes a good-natured cameo.

Anyone wishing to further weigh the relative merits of chap-hop’s two leading lights should peruse footage from this 2011 “chap-off.”

Although we do find Professor Elemental’s Jules Verne-inspired zaniness entertaining, and although he certainly meets the criteria for weirdness set out by our esteemed blog  (the fellow has a gorilla butler named Geoffrey for a sidekick, by Jove), we tend to find Mr. B the Gentleman Rhymer a more satisfyingly polished performer. Maybe it’s the banjolele that gives him his edge. Or this video. Or the fact that, unlike Professor E, he seems to know how to use a straight razor.

It’s worth noting that Mr. B and Prof E have inspired a whole chap-hop movement, and there’s now a host of other artists busting rhymes like it’s 1899: Poplock Holmes, Class Rhymes and Reginald Pikedevant, Esquire, to name only a few. At this rate, chap-hop seems poised to outlast the post-Downtown Abbey acting career of that fool who played Matthew Crawley. Seriously, why would anyone quit the best show ever on British television? What a cad.

P.S. We almost forgot to thank readers Wallicoth and Charm Man for introducing us to the joys of chap-hop. Good show, gents!

You might also like: Mo Wolpert, MC Frontalot, DeScribe

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Side project alert: Lightning Bolt’s Brian Chippendale is Black Pus

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When he’s not pummeling audiences into submission as the drummer for Lightning Bolt, Brian Chippendale is pummeling audiences into submission as the one-man wrecking crew called Black Pus. Black Pus mostly sounds like Lightning Bolt, except bassist Brian Gibson is replaced by various electronics and oscillators and other shit I don’t really claim to understand. It’s technology, people! Technology in the service of making enough noise to cause your brain to start leaking out your ears in a thick, gummy discharge.

The latest Black Pus record, All My Relations, is due out March 19th on Thrill Jockey Records and judging from lead track “1000 Years,” it’s going to be a fucking beast. It’s also apparently the first time Chippendale has recorded a full album in a regular ol’ recording studio with other dudes doing the producing and recording and whatnot. Before all you D.I.Y. punk purists start crying “sellout,” fire up “1000 Years” below and tell me it doesn’t sound like Chippendale beat that studio till it called him Daddy. (If you can’t see the Soundcloud player, click here.)

Later this spring, Chippendale’s taking his Black Pus show on the road. Here are the dates:

05-03 Boston, MA- Cambridge Elks Lounge
05-04 Buffalo, NY- Sound Lab
05-05 Cleveland, OH- Happy Dog
05-07 Chicago, IL- Empty Bottle
05-09 St.Paul, MN- Turf Club *
05-10 Omaha, NE- Slowdown
05-11 Denver, CO- Larimer Lounge
05-13 Salt Lake City, UT- Kilby Court
05-14 Boise, ID- Neurolux
05-15 Seattle, WA- Black Lodge ^
05-16 Portland, OR – Bunk Bar
05-18 San Francisco, CA- Hemlock Tavern
05-19 Oakland, CA- Lobot Gallery
05-20 Los Angeles, CA- The Smell #
05-22 San Diego, CA- Soda Bar
05-23 Tucson, AZ- Topaz Tundra
05-24 Albuquerque, NM- Small Engine
05-26 Austin, TX- Mohawk (Inside)
05-29 Atlanta, GA- The Earl
05-30 Raleigh, NC- Kings Barcade
05-31 Baltimore, MD- Golden West %
06-01 Philadelphia, PA- PhilaMOCA
06-02 Brooklyn, NY- Death By Audio

*Skoal Kodiak, Seawhores
^MTNS, Numbs
#Foot Village, Street Buddy

To pre-order All My Relations, go to Thrill Jockey’s official website. First 100 get a Chippendale comic based on a conversation we literally heard 75 different times at South by Southwest a few years back. Click the link and you’ll see what I mean.

Stream Matmos’ new album “The Marriage of True Minds” on Pitchfork

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Matmos‘ ESP-inspired album The Marriage of True Minds finally arrives this Tuesday (Feb. 19th)—but you can stream the whole thing now, courtesy of the folks at Pitchfork. Thanks, Pitchfork! You just saved us the trouble of writing an album review. Now we can spend our Sunday as the Good Lord intended: drinking wine and watching Downtown Abbey reruns.

Instead of reviewing The Marriage of True Minds, we shall instead be bringing you an in-depth account of the L.A. date of Matmos’ current U.S. tour, which takes place Monday, Feb. 25th at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Yes, in Hollywood, even the cemeteries get turned into entertainment venues eventually. We’re just that shallow and hedonistic.

We’ll leave you with this spooky Marriage of True Minds preview video. Listening to music like this in a cemetery might leave scar us for life, but it’s a chance we’re willing to take.