Baltimore duo Matmos have used a variety of stimuli to feed their electronic experimentalism over the years, but Ultimate Care II might just be their most immersive.
Matmos has been simmering away in the underbelly of electronic experimentalism for over 20 years. The pair have offered a variety of fully immersive albums in that time, with 2016’s “Ultimate Care II” numbering 10 on the list. Taking its name from musicians’ Whirlpool Ultimate Care II washing machine, the album consists of one 38-minute-long track. It is intended to depict “an exploded view of the machine, hearing it in normal operation, but also as an object being rubbed and stoked and drummed upon and prodded and sampled and sequenced and processed”.
An introductory interpretative dance set the tone for the evening, but not in the way you’d expect. A third band member, young in comparison to the duo, was sworn on to conduct a sit-down performance of synchronised hand and upper body movements to swooping electronic sound bites. Seated viewers were transported into an otherworldly realm of sight and sound, following his movements as they acted out a nonspecific story – the perfect Matmos introduction.
Martin Schmidt then took to the stage, adorned in his typical teacher attire, to introduce the washing machine and explain its relevance on stage. “All the sounds that you hear are coming from the washing machine,” he stated. The young man from earlier then joined Schmidt in battering and beating the machine with brushes, whilst Daniels was set off to the side, subtly sampling and processing all the sounds. It was easy to become lost in the sounds that Daniels grabbed and recycled, as well as the almost barbaric interaction with the machine itself.
The hour-long performance was immersive and strangely visceral. Differing from previous, heavier works, Ultimate Care II is more concrete in sound, using the swooshes, hisses and churns of the machine as the framework for a heavier expansion of texture and style. Akin to not much else in the experimental field at the moment, UC II is an album that truly comes alive on stage and hooks you at every turn.