Remember when we told you that Drew Daniel of Matmos was releasing an all-electronic album of black metal covers through his solo project, The Soft Pink Truth? Well, the album arrived this past week, and it’s even more hilariously batshit than we could have hoped for. You can hear the whole thing via Spotify and other fine streaming sites, or watch this extremely gay and frostbitten video for his hardcore techno version of Venom’s “Black Metal” for a taste of the project’s highly irreverent approach to its source material:
Daniel, who is gay, loves black metal but hates its politics, which tend to be a wee bit racist, homophobic and, y’know, white supremacist. So he meant for Why Do the Heathen Rage? to be equal parts homage and piss-take. “I wanted to be a kind of Satanic serpent that sneaks in the Garden of Eden of black metal and fucks with it,” he said in a recent interview with XLR8R, “takes the sacred bands, like Mayhem and Darkthrone, and trashes them. I mean, it’s a trashing that’s born out of love, but it’s also born out of a desire to provoke and piss off.”
It’s both a queer and punk-rock way to tackle black metal, which is so hidebound in rigid conventions and notions of “authenticity” that even some of the genre’s purveyors have grown sick of it. When we interviewed current Mayhem guitarist Teloch and asked him about experimental black metal bands like Deafheaven, he had this to say: “To me, when you say experiment and black metal together in a sentence, it’s no longer black metal. To me black metal has strict rules and codes to follow for it being black metal, but that’s also the reason why I quit playing/listening to black metal years ago.”
Lest there be any doubt that Daniel was casting a queer eye on black metal, he premiered one of the album’s tracks, “Ready to Fuck,” on the website of BUTT, a British gay magazine.
The rest of Why Do the Heathen Rage? is in a similar glitchy, electronic vein, but with definite touches of black metal’s death rasp vocals and pounding, relentless sense of doom. It’s dark music that will put a smile on your face. You can order up a copy of the album from Thrill Jockey Records or via Amazon.com.
We knew electronic duo Matmos had a punk streak when we saw them rock the fuck out of a Buzzcocks cover on their last tour. But we weren’t expecting this: Drew Daniel, the younger, punkier half of Matmos, is releasing an entire album of black metal covers. And he’s doing it mostly with electronics. And he’s doing under the name of his weirdo house music alter ego, The Soft Pink Truth. And he’s putting it out on pink vinyl.
So basically, he’s making a black metal album specifically designed to piss off black metal fans, which…since the whole point of being a black metal is to be pissed off at pretty much everything…might make Why Do the Heathen Rage? the most black metal of all time.
The Soft Pink Truth’s Why Do the Heathen Rage?: Electronic Profanations of Black Metal Classics is due out June 17th on the greatest label in the history of everything, Thrill Jockey. It will feature guest vocals by such totally non-metal singers as Antony of Antony & the Johnsons and Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak and promises, according to the press release, to transform its source material from such corpse-painted doom mongers as Mayhem, Venom, Darkthrone and Hellhammer into “hyperactive dance-floor bangers.”
We are so excited to hear the whole thing we can hardly stand it. Here’s a taste: a cover of Venom’s genre-defining classic, “Black Metal.”
Side note: Although Daniel is apparently a for-reals fan of the black stuff, he’s also gay and therefore has some issues with the genre’s more extreme racist/homophobic/white-supremacist elements. So he explained the whole concept behind the album in part by noting, “Just as blasphemy both affirms and assaults the sacred powers it invokes and inverts, so too this record celebrates black metal and offers queer critique / mockery / profanation of its ideological morass in equal measure.” And in case that’s all a little too intellectual for you to process, he also makes his point by ending Why Do the Heathen Rage? with a cover of “Grim and Frostbitten Gay Bar” by our other favorite black metal piss take, Impaled Northern Moonforest.
If you want to pre-order one of the pink vinyl copies of Why Do the Heathen Rage?, and watch a trailer video, hit up the Thrill Jockey online store.
When The Onion A.V. Club asked avant-electronic duo Matmos to cover “I Want Candy,” the classic ’60s stomper made even stompier in the ’80s by Bow Wow Wow, you just knew they were going to twist and tweak it some unexpected ways. But turning it into a homoerotic paean to NSA leaker Edward Snowden? Gentlemen, you’ve outdone yourselves!
WordPress and the A.V. Club’s video player don’t get along, so you’ll have to go over to their site to watch all the fun. Suffice it to say there are shakers, squiggly keyboards and distorted vocals involved. And of course, that sweet, sweet Bo Diddley beat, which for the most part Matmos chose not to fuck with. Some things just can’t be improved upon.
ESP-loving electronic duo Matmos are still out promoting their latest album, The Marriage of True Minds, which they created with the help of volunteers in a psychic powers experiment. We’ve covered this one quite a bit, so we’re all out of psychic jokes, but we can tell you they’ll be performing in Chicago this coming Thursday as part of the Loops and Variations concert series, and later this summer they’ll be at the Hopscotch Festival in North Carolina. We don’t know these things because we’re psychic or anything; we just got the press release. (See? Told you we were fresh out of psychic jokes.)
To keep the True Minds train a-rollin’, Matmos have just released another video from the trippy set. Directed by Matmos’ own M.C. Schmidt, the “Aetheric Vehicle” video is a tangerine dream of spacey synths, ancient Egyptians, and retinal damage from staring at the sun too long.
P.S. If you purchase The Marriage of True Minds via Amazon, you can support both Matmos and TWBITW in one go, thanks to the magic of our Amazon Associates program. For more on how Amazon Associates works, visit our FAQs.
“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.
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.
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 manyMatmosposts, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We here at Weird Band HQ have been counting down the days until the Feb. 19th release of The Marriage of True Minds, the ESP-inspired album from avant-electronica duo Matmos. Now we’ll also be counting down the days until we get to see them perform here in L.A. at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Will they read the minds of the dead? With these dudes, anything is possible.
Stick around after the tour dates for a taste of Matmos’ current live incarnation, which features live guitar and drums and, fittingly, a cover of the Buzzcocks’ “E.S.P.” Also: ducks. I bet if you could read their minds, they be saying, “More worms, please!”
Matmos tour dates:
Mon. Feb. 11 – New York, NY @ Le Poisson Rouge *
Tue. Feb. 12 – Boston, MA @ Brighton Music Hall *
Wed. Feb. 13 – Montreal, QC @ Il Motore *
Thu. Feb. 14 – Toronto, ON @ TBA *
Fri. Feb. 15 – Chicago, IL @ Empty Bottle *
Sat. Feb. 16 – Minneapolis, MN @ Cedar Cultural Center *%
Tue. Feb. 19 – Portland, OR @ Doug Fir ^
Wed. Feb. 20 – Seattle, WA @ Neumo’s ^
Thu. Feb. 21 – Vancouver, BC @ Media Club *
Sun. Feb. 24 – San Francisco, CA @ Public Works *
Mon. Feb. 25 – Los Angeles, CA @ Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever Cemetery *
Thu. Feb. 28 – Austin, TX @ The ND
Sat. Mar. 2 – Louisville, KY @ ZBar
Wed. Mar. 6 – Baltimore, MD @ TBA
* w/ Horse Lords
% w/ Josef Van Wissem
^ w/ Mouse on Mars