Review :: Matmos
January 23rd 2014
‘Weird’ isn’t a satisfactory term to describe what happened to my eyes and ears when I saw Matmos play for Sydney Festival.
The San Francisco duo has conducted twenty years of pure musical experimentation- including an entire album based on recordings of medical surgeries, a track based on “amplified crayfish nerve tissue” and a massive discography of songs that are scarcely songs at all. Armed with this knowledge, I expected something weird. It was, but it was also hilarious, challenging and mind-opening.
The attentive crowd at Sydney’s intimate City Recital Hall was the perfect opportunity for Matmos to perform much of their material for the first time.
“We usually play in dive bars,” the formally dressed Schmidt admitted, “where people are talking… and shitting on stage.”
Image by Prudence Upton
To begin, guest “vocalist” Andrew Tuttle, a bedraggled and bespectacled loafer, sat facing the crowd while the duo examined him from behind their labyrinthine audiovisual equipment like mad scientists. Tuttle seemed possessed by a vision, which he described over many musicless minutes as “Very Large Green Triangles.” He horribly hummed this vision as a toneless “Hmmm Mmm Mm,” a melody that Matmos eventually translated into their mind-bending first “song,” accompanied by a visual display of gigantic green triangles invading a city. It soon became apparent, however, that this was the most song-like track of the entire performance.
The remaining “songs” casually featured odd instruments such as a freshly inflated balloon, recordings of a toilet being unblocked, and a particularly clangy metronome, all of which humiliated the audience’s eyes and ears until layer upon layer of recorded and synthesised sound melted every ear into submission. Walking out of the venue, I laughed as I found an appreciation for everyday sounds – even my footsteps seemed like instruments translating some profound meaning.