Watching Baltimore-based electronic duo Matmos perform in The Masonic Lodge at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery on a Monday night felt strangely reminiscent of The Twilight Zone. M.C. Schmidt and Drew Daniel are known for their highly experimental electronic music. It was entrancing to watch them present the music live as organically as possible. Their first song involved a disengaged speaker on headphones reciting the track’s vocals, and a mysterious musical triangle Daniel held up like a performance art piece. The rest of their set involved the autoharp, water-blowing through modified straw and what looked like a kazoo, another mysterious black object that emitted strange sounds, and my personal favorite, the tapping and squeaking of an inflated rubber balloon.
The night was opened by fellow Baltimore band Horse Lords, which I enjoyed immensely. Two drummers, a bass, and a guitar, playing complicated strings of songs that would be problematic if not done with skill. One member of the audience called “just the right amount of cowbell!” and I couldn’t help but agree. As much as they are instrumental rock though, they still in a way contributed to the science fiction effect the night had. At one point, bassist Max Eilbacher lead the song with calculated tinkering on a mixer. Members of the band performed with Matmos later on as well, to bring the more complicated tracks to life, such as “Very Large Triangles” and “Yield To Total Elation”.
By the end of the night, I have come to believe that Matmos are mad musical scientists on the fringe of the electronic spectrum. There are possibly deeper and more elegant references to how far Matmos pushes our sense of perception of what music is, but at the moment I am too amazed by their creative design. So, I’m just going to end with: If Rod Serling ever created a sci-fi thriller set in a graveyard about psychological experiments of sound, Matmos would be the soundtrack and the final scene would be a mind-altered disco trip fade to prism-colored noise.