A hastily arranged show for Matmos following the RE-TG debacle which was originally intended to be their sole UK performance. The stage was set with a screen, with all their equipment facing the wrong way. In this live context the suited MC Schmidt provides the strange sound sources while the Drew Daniel, in his civil war costume, busies himself with the electronics, sequencing and digital mixing. They're augmented by members of the Dick Slessig trio on guitar and drums providing a more conventional augmentation to their avant garde approach.
Their use of weird sound sources is well documented. Their acclaimed A Chance To Cut Is A Chance to Cure was fashioned out of field recordings of cosmetic surgery in clinics in their home city of San Francisco. Spliced, diced and remodelled with the precision of a surgeon's scalpel. The Civil War is a much more loose and approachable recording constructed out of electronic and organic instruments. It does however include one track featuring a rabbit pelt. The Civil War sounds familiar but vaguely alien, and it's perhaps because they appear so friendly and affable that the music of Matmos unlike many electronic acts is so easy to digest.
The opening track is based around the watery sound effects created by blowing a straw into a glass bowl. This may sound very dull and sterile but there's a camera projecting this on screen, and it's compelling to listen to as it gradually builds into a convincing sound piece. The Civil War forms the basis for the set, so you get everything from contemporary electronica to medieval dirges to all out electronic squall. With less access to their myriad of sound devices this is a rather stripped down Matmos but it allows you to focus on the duo and appreciate, even in this live context how they administer the sounds. It's equal parts English Civil War and American Civil War. On 'Zealous Order of Candied Knight' Martin Schmidt takes up the hurdy-gurdy. The hurdy-gurdy reeks of quaint Englishness folkness, while 'For The Trees' conjures up visions of the vast plains of the American south. The supporting musicians should be commended for their sympathetic backing bringing in everything from marching drums to steel guitar which almost echoes their previous release, The West. The driving rhythm of 'Yield To Total Elation' with its 'Lust for Life' derived rhythm engages the audience even permitting some dancing in the hall.
They even manage to marshall the support of the crowd by some well placed criticism aimed at that "fuckin' asshole George Bush". According to Schmidt, bedecked in his familiar suit and tie image, their vocal complaints of their political homeland have been universally understood even where English is not the first language. The collision of the archaic and modern is only really equalled by their friends industrial experimentalists Coil but Matmos opt for a more feel good factor eschewing the the need for arcane esoterica. How else could they release one of the grooviest ambient releases under their Vague Terrain alter-ego.
Their capacity to indulge in rhythmic music with improbable sound sources is undiminished and the encore, of which they claim is unique to this tour, doesn't exactly deliver the singalong they promise yet it's further evidence that they've managed to assimilate the ordinary with the extraordinary and still remain Matmos.
They're as comfortable as being supporting musicians to Bjork, as to discussing music theory in universities to hosting installations at art establishments. They really are out on a limb and how they manage to wrestle a career in avant garde electronica while retaining the attention of a club audience is quite frankly incredible. I wasn't immediately convinced with The Civil War on record, but in this live setting it makes perfect sense.
Matmos - www.brainwashed.com/matmos