2001's A Chance To Cut is a Chance to Cure is often wheeled out as the best evidence of Matmos's wackiness, and understandably so: an album constructed from recordings of surgical procedures will always invoke a certain morbid curiosity. But considering the many uses of concept across the duo's lengthy discography, it's clear that shock factor is far from Drew Daniel and MC Schmidt's primary concern. 2008's synth-led Supreme Balloon felt like their most conceptually straightforward album in years. With The Marriage of True Minds, we return to far knottier terrain; knottier, even, than the series of "sonic portraits" that made up 2006's The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of a Beast.
For the making of this album and last year's Ganzfeld EP, a series of volunteers were subjected to the Ganzfeld experiment, an established method for measuring the effectiveness of telepathy. With halved ping-pong balls over their eyes and white noise played into their ears, Daniel would attempt to project the concept of the new Matmos record into their minds (a concept which he still refuses to reveal to anybody, even Schmidt). Subjects would recount things that they perceived—shapes, colours, sounds—and the transcripts of the tests formed the basis for musical compositions. As a concept, it takes a while to unpick: at first it seems like another farcical project from a duo known for going the extra mile. But it has deeper metaphorical resonance, too, as a neat analogue of human beings' desire to communicate, to be understood, and the obstacles they face in doing so.
In sonic terms The Marriage of True Minds is a logical next step for Matmos: a bewildering but masterfully-executed collage of sounds and styles, running the gamut from tech house to bluegrass, often in the same track. There are moments of continuity with their past. "Aetheric Vehicle"'s pastoral synth noodlings recall Supreme Balloon, while the crisp, expansive electronica of opener "You" and "Teen Paranormal Romance" cleave closest to the classic Matmos sound. "Tunnel" seems to satirise the conventions of techno—the portentous monologue, the ceaselessly rising synth tones—while "Ross Transcript"'s rapid, surreal jump cuts could be a nod to the duo's musique concrete forebears.
The Marriage of True Minds stands apart from Matmos' discography in one major respect: the use of voices. A raft of collaborators make contributions, including Dan Deacon and Angel Deradoorian of the Dirty Projectors, spanning an array of styles from throat singing to new age monologue. Therein lies this album's potential stumbling block: with such radically different approaches folded into the whole, uninitiated listeners may struggle to make sense of it all. Things come to a head in the closing track, a Matmos-goes-doom-metal take on The Buzzcocks' "ESP," complete with cookie monster vocals from Gerry Mak of Bloody Panda. It's so utterly silly that it's difficult to form a response. Fortunately Daniel and Schmidt supply one: a raucous, jubilant conclusion that feels like a celebration of having made it through this formidable, baffling, often delightful behemoth of an album.
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Tracklist: Matmos - The Marriage of True Minds 01. You
02. Very Large Green Triangles
03. Mental Radio
04. Ross Transcript
05. Teen Paranormal Romance
07. In Search of A Lost Faculty
08. Aetheric Vehicle
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