Actually, they're not just DJing. Matmos in Seattle in 2009; it's the gap between the all-in-the-box synthetic world of the laptop and the endless possibilities of sampling their basement of toys where things get really interesting. Photo (CC-BY-SA) Joe Mabel.

Actually, they’re not just DJing. Matmos in Seattle in 2009; it’s the gap between the all-in-the-box synthetic world of the laptop and the endless possibilities of sampling their basement of toys where things get really interesting. Photo (CC-BY-SA) Joe Mabel.

Now with the release of The Marriage of True Minds, the duo’s album based on parapsychological telepathy experiments, it’s worth visiting again with Matmos. The Baltimore-based duo offer dueling interviews. One, with XLR8R, ventures into their basement full of sonic wonders, full of handmade instruments and electronics and oddities, like wooden creations built around contact mics and some thing covered with knobs called The Polygamist. (And yes, there’s really no excuse for using generic sounds for the components of a song when the world of sound is so wide.)

Of the two, it’s Drew Daniel (PhD!) who seems more comfortable working in the box with Ableton Live. And that’s where things get interesting, in a way. It’s easy, after all, to assemble an endless palette of sounds; compositional thinking becomes essential when that universe has to fit into a live performance or into a finished work.

In terms of live performance, Drew has a novel approach using two laptops simultaneously:

Most of our songs are parted out into large structural components on one computer; the other computer is where I’ll be capturing live samples, or producing more odd, experimental beds of sound.

…I don’t chain one laptop to the other – I deliberately like to keep the systems independent, so that there’s always this sort of drift of time, in terms of when I “jump on board the train” of one machine from the other machine. The fun part is, often, when taking a song apart, I’ll deliberately pull the clocks out of sync with each other, so that there’s these overlaid patterns that are deliberately inconsistent with respect to each other.

For all these beautiful sampled sounds, inside the laptop, Drew finds some world between physical reality and imagined, synthetic sound, working heavily with the physical-modeled instruments in Live (Tension, Collision, built by AAS):

I wanted a form of music that would have the simultaneous feeling of enormity, yet would make you ask yourself, “is it synthetic? Is it genuine? Is there something artificial here?” I love the way that you can trick the ear with an instrument like Tension, because it simultaneously has the feeling of something physical and played in a space, yet it’s doing things that don’t quite correlate to the physical restrictions of most real-world instruments.

Well worth reading the full reviews:

Matmos’ Drew Daniel on playing live and physical modeling [Ableton blog]

In the Studio: Matmos [XLR8R]

Also, for a bit of supernatural sci-fi floating geometry, here’s the video for the single, “Very Large Green Triangles”:

Matmos – Very Large Green Triangles from Thrill Jockey Records on Vimeo.

Previously, and with this free Molly Malone track which remains one of my favorites, ever, featuring the vocal talents of the wonderful Clodagh Simonds (of Fovea Hex):

Matmos: New Music, Parapsychological Experiments, Sensory Deprivation Goggles, Irish Covers

  • runagate

    Always glad to see that others are obsessed with physical modeling. One of the fun things is that oftentimes the results sound “real” even when they are clearly not something that exists in our physical world, nor even could exist. Plus, the parametric controls allow one to morph the physics of the virtual components in real time. is a particularly nice source for bleeding edge PM VSTs. I see they’re about to come through on tour locally, so thanks for the head’s up.

  • Random Chance

    Drew Daniel is one of those artists (or rather persons) I’d like to get to “know” if I had the chance. In the end it all depends a lot on how open-minded M. C. Schmidt is … :-P

  • Robert Chambers

    These pretentious assholes comprise one of my favorite electronic groups of all time. So amazing.