Matmos Ganzfield EP (Review)

Ganzfield EP
Thrill Jockey Records

Amid various celebrations occurring this year, Thrill Jockey landed quite a signing as a twentieth anniversary present: Matmos, the name under which Baltimore-based electronica duo M.C. Schmidt and Drew Daniel record. Serendipitously enough, Matmos has been together for two decades too. For such an auspicious pairing, the label and musicians dispensed with exchanging china or porcelain gifts. Instead, they exchanged music: 2012 sees the releases of Matmos’s Ganzfield EP, a three track foretaste of their next LP, slated for release sometime in 2013.

Like the projected long form addition to Matmos’s catalog, the Ganzfield EP has psychic underpinnings – no, really.Schmidt and Daniel have been conducting parapsychological experiments based on the Ganzfield (total field) experiment. Their own variant features tests at Oxford University that included sensory deprivation and Daniel’s attempts to mind message concepts from the forthcoming album to (presumably) receptive volunteers.

Two of three of the EP’s cuts are artistic explorations of this telepathic premise. “Very Large Green Triangles” features chanting refrains that are intoned over instruments in rhythmic unison for the opening. This is then succeeded by big beats and deconstruction of the refrain’s material over shadowy references to the tune and a progressively morphing syncopation of its rhythm. The closing section brings the vocal chants front and center, but rhythmically displaces some of them, setting up a strenuously emphatic conclusion filled with drum punctuation and with the tune back in the strings.

For a break from Ganzfield experimentation, Matmos shares Rrose’s remix of extant track “You,” which plays with distressed samples over thrumming articulations in a techno style. Catchy as all get out:

The most ambitious cut on the EP is “Just Waves,” a near thirteen minute long sonic experiment in which there is a pileup of overlapping single note chants (disparate sounding voices this time: male and female). This morphs into a chorale of sustained voices that’s gradually haloed by organs and synthesizers. By the way, one of the guest vocalist is Dan Deacon, whose new album America we wrote about on 9/12.

Those waiting for a huge departure from this obsessive texture of sustained single note chants are likely to be let down That said, hang in there: there’s something sumptuous about the accumulation of stacked harmonies. It makes one glad for Matmos’s willingness to try out something new on its listeners. I didn’t even mind the attempts at telepathic communication (mind meld averted … I hope!).

Simian Mobile Disco: A Form of Change (review)

Simian Mobile Disco

A Form of Change EP

Wichita Recordings

Four tracks recorded during sessions for Unpatterns their 2012 full length (also on Wichita) comprise Simian Mobile Disco’s A Form of Change EP. Like the LP, there is a sense of space and, in places, ambiance afoot that opens up the sound spectrum;  Form of Change rids itself of a bit of the busier passagework found in their early recordings. This may cause the pieces to be a bit less visceral in impact; but the economy of means allows for one to position these pieces somewhere between downtempo dancehall and ambient IDM, a fertile ground that, prior to this year, wasn’t really in SMD’s bailiwick. The change of musical approach works handily.

“How Does Kevin Costner Keep Getting Work?”

Out now via Hooker Vision (HT to Steve Smith for mentioning it), a new tape from Kevin Costner Suicide Pact. And yes, this is much better than the band’s name might suggest!

Toro Y Moi: “Rose Quartz” Live at Lollapalooza (Video)

Toro Y Moi’s set yesterday at Lollapalooza 2012 included five new songs.

The video for one of them, “Rose Quartz,” is below.

The band is touring in August and September (dates below).

Toro Y Moi- Touring schedule
8/26 – Brooklyn, NY – Afropunk Festival
9/26 – Durham, NC – Motorco Music Hall
9/27 – Asheville, NC – Orange Peel *
9/28 – Charleston, SC – Music Farm *
9/29 – Fairburn, GA – Counterpoint Music Festival
10/13 – San Francisco, CA – Treasure Island Music Festival

* = w/ The Choir Quit, Can’t Kids

Björk: Biophilia Remixes by Current Value

Biophilia Remixes
Part I: “Crystalline” and “Solstice,” remixed by Current Value
One Little Indian

Björk’s 2011 recording, Biophilia, has, from its conception and release, been more than just another full length CD. The songwriter commissioned an app suite that allowed listeners to interact with the musical materials on the album and learn more about the scientific and ecological inspiration for much of the content of the lyrics. This has been followed by several educational initiatives in which Björk has been involved as a teacher and curator. Thus, the Biophilia project’s organic growth can be seen to extend alongside its creator’s omnivorous interests; and to reach far beyond the usual quarters of the record industry.

On the musical front, Björk has invited several prominent electronica artists to remix songs from Biophilia. The projected eight part series of remixes affords another layer of collaboration and interaction with this rich source material. The first part features Berlin-based artist Tim Eliot, who records under the moniker Current Value. He refashions two songs. The first, “Crystalline,” has one of the coolest and most readily apprehended apps in the series.

Crystalline App Tutorial on YouTube

Current Value has been a purveyor of techstep and the more dissonant wing of drum and bass for two decades. On “Crystalline,” his preferred techniques are deployed at full strength. After a delicate and ethereal beginning, he lays the hammer down, distressing the song’s textures and providing its center with a “voltage” and glitch tinged foreground and thrumming sepulchral bass tones. CV allows for this wall of song to prevail for much of the remix, making it eminently dance floor ready. We are allowed a brief respite again near the song’s conclusion; ambient synths blanket Björk’s voice before it is once again thrust into the propulsive maelstrom of the mix.

“Solstice” is a far more delicate source track. The Current Value remix processes the vocals, providing a sense of distance that accentuates the original’s delicacy. Beats skitter and, once again, “voltage” punctuation coruscates the proceedings until, at last, the boom is once again lowered: a mid tempo groove is established that is underpinned with multiple bass register lines in counterpoint. Perfect for a down tempo or lounge setting but still rife with syncopation, the “Solstice” rendition lives up to its remixer’s reputation for challenging dance hall aesthetics with dissonant and complex rhythms. Correspondingly, its adventurous spirit transforms the source material in fascinating ways.