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!).