Water, chains, a coffee cup and a conch were just a few of the “instruments” played with virtuosic expertise during this evening’s performance. To say this concert was an exercise in musical totality would be a grand understatement.
Baltimore, Maryland duo Matmos brought pro collaborators and an arsenal of instruments/objects to town, making good on their reputation as conceptual innovators, proficient in bringing the fringes of avant-garde electronica to the fore of pop music. When Martin Schmidt of Matmos got the crowd to rearrange the seating to the very middle of the room so the audience could improve it’s positioning within the band’s quadraphonic sound setup (read: surround sound), it became apparent that maximizing sonic expression was the priority for the evening.
Seated séance-style around a baby blue wooden box, the Lexie Mountain Boys, a quartet of female vocal improvisers, set the tone with an opening performance of cacophonic chants, polyphonic raps and tongue-in-cheek Father’s Day odes.
Then, after a brief intermission, the cactus appeared.
Positioned mid-stage before a glaring red stage light, the four members of New York’s So Percussion slowly approached the amplified plant, flicking and plucking sounds out of it’s spines while Matmos’ Drew Daniels and Schmidt sampled the experiment, generating a throbbing, organic rhythm structure that would underpin the evening. The two groups shared the stage for the night, playing an array of compositions from their respective albums, as well as music from their new collaborative record Treasure State. The melodic whimsy of “Treasure” and the synth-born wonder of “Rainbow Flag” showcased their mutual affinity for complexity, but the sheer multitude of things brought to make music with made their shared appreciation of the tactile obvious.
Amidst the squeaking of squeeze toys and the pouring of water (not to mention conventional drum sets, vibraphones and guitars), Matmos proved that even the most forward thinking electronic music needs a bit of booze and love to make it live. The adoring crowd was treated to a beer can symphony for an encore. As PBR cans were poked, mutilated and looped, Daniels and Schmidt huddled close for a kiss under a sheet of tin foil, allowing the closest microphone to parlay the sound of an unparalleled musical partnership.