Matmos: Sincerely / Ukłony dla Bogusław Schaeffer Album Review
The two men from Matmos are living rebukes to the idea that concept art is somehow creepy and unattainable. When they decide to make a track from the sounds of a breast implant or a cow’s uterus, they challenge themselves to not only use those sounds, but to make them funky and fun. In a recent interview with Norwegian artist Lasse Marhaug, MC Schmidt – one half of the duo alongside musical and romantic partner Drew Daniel – described being one of 10 people at an electroacoustic festival a few years ago; the problem, he thought, was that the venue had only invited “academic composers” to the festival, rather than putting up flyers and getting the word out to the public. “I feel like multi-channel electroacoustic music can and should be a populist/popular art form,” Schmidt said. “Just, for example, enjoyed by anyone who smokes marijuana.”
Their new album Sincerely / Ukłony dla Bogusław Schaeffer integrates electroacoustic music and populist art in a very literal way. While most of the record is stylistically in line with the duo’s MO of mapping sounds from unconventional sources onto a beatgrid drawn from electronic pop, all of the sounds here come from a sample pack that the duo created from the electroacoustic works of Polish composer Bogusław Schaeffer. at the influential Polish Radio Experimental Studio in the 1960s and 1970s. The pair were unfamiliar with Schaeffer’s music until the Adam Mickiewicz Polish Institute commissioned the sample pack, and it’s hard to blame them : Although popular in Poland, especially in the 1990s, Schaeffer is little known abroad. Recordings and performances of his pieces aren’t always easy to find, but anyone who’s seen David Lynch’s impressive recent tour Inner Empire will have heard his work.
The 11 tracks incorporated into the sample pack provided just about everything the duo could need for the album’s eight tracks. The choir samples play the role that faux angel choir presets typically play in electronic music, throwing out eerie chords to create a sense of grandeur and foreboding. It seems unbelievable that a ridiculously funky frat-rock organ track on “Cobra Wages Shuffle/Off! Schable w gurę!” It could have come from Schaeffer, but no, it’s from Schaeffer’s “ES Jazz”. (The titles are bilingual, and three are delightful anagrams for Schaeffer’s name.) A forest of bells criss-crosses the landscape of the overture “Resemblage/Parasamblaż” – not of the fairy-tale kind but gruff clicks that underline the fact that bells are percussion instruments. Then there are the horns. Matmos loves horns, and Schaeffer has it all.