Friday, March 19, 2004

Into the Ether

I ran into an old KALX acquaintance the other day, Drew Macaroni & Cheese... aka Drew Daniel, half of the experimental electronic outfit Matmos. I don't know that they approve or disapprove of the moniker "experimental," but when you've created music using the squeaking of a balloon, the slurping of liposuction, and the amplified synapse from crayfish nerve tissue, I'd think "experimental" is somewhat suitable.

Drew and his partner (and Matmos co-hort) Martin were in town for a Germs reunion show. When I met Drew back in our radio days, he was a musical tinkler working on his PHD in English Renaissance Literature. I believe he's still working on that, when they aren't doing remixes for Kid 606 or backing Bjork. The sounds of Matmos are like nothing I'd ever heard before, but unlike most "experimental" stuff, it was melodious and not annoying in the least! I can say this was a relief to me, personally, because I've never done well with the more abstract stuff, but I could really latch onto Matmos' music. And admire their creativity. Drew once told me that he & Martin wanted to come into the 7 story building which housed the radio station late one night, when no one was around, to record the slight sound of the air coming through the locked door and traveling along the basement corridor. It was a low howl you'd notice sometimes, but not usually. Those guys just have a different kind of ear.

That was something that Bjork noticed about them when she gave them a call in 1998 to do a remix of her Homogenic track, "Alarm Call." They had already done some work with the Rachel's and June of 44, but Drew was still surprised (in his nonchalant Drew way) when they heard her message on her machine. (I'm now going to paraphrase what he told me at the time... and imagine a very whispery little girl Bjork voice here) "Hallo? Is this Drew & Martin? This is Bjork, and I really like your music. I was wondering if you could please call me, and I would like to work with you. Thank you." It was the start of a beautiful relationship, which took them on tour with the Icelandic princess as part of her back up "band" and also to performances and production work on her Vespertine album.

But Matmos has done plenty on their own. The Matador artists released The Civil War CD this past summer to great reviews, incorporating sounds which coulda been pulled from field recordings of both the American civil war and the English civil war of the 16th century. Damn! Field recordings of cicadas and fireworks mixed in with Appalachian style folk songs and military drum pieces make for what turns into a very historical bit of electronic & atmospheric music. And this was the follow up to their A Chance to Cut Is A Chance to Cure CD, which featured manipulations of recordings Drew made at his father's plastic surgery clinic. Whoa.

The boys will be taking their act on the road soon, doing an instore performance at Amoeba Music in Hollywood in early May, before heading off to Europe for a string of dates which includes the Throbbing Gristle reunion/ festival. They have also been working on a project with the Kronos Quartet.

Like I said, whoa.