On the night after Swans, legendary purveyors of bombast and gore, played Bristol’s Trinity Centre, it might be expected that US duo Matmos’ gig at Colston Hall’s Lantern venue would provide some respite for Avon ears. However, what ensued could easily beat Swans for a deeply unsettling experience.
Matmos are experts in experimental electronic music, ‘experimental’ being the operative word. For their latest album, ‘The Marriage of True Minds’, they utilised the paranormal, bombarding blindfolded volunteers with barrages of light and noise, crafting the album’s tracks around the victim’s verbal utterances. For much of tonight’s performance, it feels like the audience are being bombarded in much the same way.
With a dense set of electronic machinery, the twosome combine thudding beats with harsh, screeching electronic squeals and beeps and a video backdrop. When the visuals are of a skeletal, misshapen human face, the combination with the loud audio emissions are unnerving to say the least. According to the band, they have been criticised in the past for having rehearsed their shows too much, but for this tour they are “much more unrehearsed”.
M.C. Schmidt and Drew Daniel, Ph.D., are clearly fond of their geek tech, and the setup tonight often invokes moments from Red Dwarf or Stormtrooper dialogue. There is a “jerk-off camera” which monitors a metronome, and an oscilloscope which monitors the ‘musical’ patterns. Matmos enjoy using unusual sounds, and in the past have utilised liposuction and the turning of a Bible’s pages. Tonight the standout moment is when an audience member is asked to pull on a large roll of sellotape, creating a grating, squeeking sound.
A Matmos gig certainly isn’t for the faint hearted, and is experimental music at its most extreme.